Trader sees red over bid to end purple patch

A purple shop in Innerleithen run by Martha Gibson.
A purple shop in Innerleithen run by Martha Gibson.

An Innerleithen shopkeeper is vowing to resist any attempt by Scottish Borders Council to force her to repaint the frontage of her premises.

Last summer, Martha Gibson selected a shade of purple for the wooded exterior of the general-purpose outlet she leases in Leithen Road.

Five months later, she received a visit from a council enforcement officer informing her a complaint had been received and that she required planning permission for the facelift because the shop, at the east end of High Street, lies within Innerleithen’s conservation area.

When Mrs Gibson applied for that retrospective consent in March this year, the owner of the property next door objected, claiming the colour was unsympathetic to surrounding buildings.

Asked to comment, Innerleithen Community Council said it could not reach a consensus, some members believing it was a “retrograde step” and others opining that a purple shop was better than an empty one and that it was unreasonable to put Mrs Gibson to the expense of repainting it.

That was a view shared by Edinburgh antiques dealer John Belford, the property’s owner.

In a letter of support, he said many of his friends in the antique trade had remarked favourably on the appearance of the frontage.

However, the council’s local planning officer, John Hiscox, disagreed and, using delegated powers, he refused the retrospective application.

“The colour is considered to give rise to a jarring juxtaposition between tones, conflicting with the softer, neutral tones of the buildings it relates to,” said Mr Hiscox in his determination.

Mrs Gibson’s appeal against that decision was heard on Monday by the authority’s local review body, and its nine members unanimously agreed to uphold the refusal, deeming the chosen hue “incongruous in the wider setting of the conservation area”.

After the meeting, a council spokesperson said: “This leaves the way clear for the applicant to submit a fresh application for consent to repaint the frontage in a more appropriate colour.”

Mrs Gibson has no intention of complying, though, saying: “This whole affair is absolutely ridiculous.

“Just one complaint and then one objection has got me into this situation, and I feel really victimised.

“You only have to walk along Innerleithen High Street to see wild inconsistencies in shop colours and architectural styles.

“The council can do what it likes, but I won’t be moved.”