Sunbed centre approved for former St Helens bank site

The shopping unit in Fingerpost
The shopping unit in Fingerpost
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Plans to turn a former bank into a luxury sunbed centre have been approved.

Sunseekers Sunbeds submitted a change of use application to St Helens Council to turn a former bank in Higher Parr Street, Fingerpost, into a tanning salon.

The unit was last used by Barclays Bank but has been vacant for around four years.

The application, which planning inspectors had recommended for approval, was heard by the council’s planning committee on Tuesday.

Melanie Hale, the council’s development service manager, said inspectors considered the plans “entirely appropriate in a local shopping centre”.

She said allowing the development would bring the vacant building back into use, adding “vitality and viability” to the centre.

The council received 30 letters of objection, which raised a number of concerns including that there were too many similar businesses within the area and that the new sunbed centre would pose a threat to those business.

Carol O’Brien, owner of Heaven Tanning Beds and Beauty Lounge in Higher Parr Street, spoke in the public speaker’s section of the meeting.

Ms O’Brien, who is also the landlady of the nearby Queens Arms, said prior to setting up the new business three months ago, she approached Sunseekers Sunbeds to ask if it had plans to set up shop in Fingerpost.

She claimed the national firm’s head office told her they had no intentions of doing so, only to find out about the plans one month after opening.

Ms O’Brien said: “I would never have gone ahead with the sunbed centre if I’d have been told the truth as I know I would be facing failure against such a national company.

“I would have tried a different venture as I do not think the market is big enough to provide two companies with this service in such close proximity to one and another.

“We already have three sunbed centres within walking distance, Oasis and The Sun Lounge.

“I feel the opening of this other site at this premises will not only make my enterprise unviable, with a loss of my investment and staff, but I also speak for the other tanning shops that face the same outcome as I do not stand alone.”

Conservative group leader Allan Jones said he felt “sympathy” for Ms O’Brien.

However, he said the planning committee was unable to refuse the application as there were no material planning considerations to do so.

Coun Jones, ward member for Rainford, said: “If we could I would wish to vote this out. We can’t because what has been said is not a planning consideration.

“It is a question of head and heart. My heart says no, my head says we cannot stop it.”

Labour councillor Seve Gomez-Aspron, chairman of the planning committee, added that the committee is “bound” by planning laws that drive its decisions.

Planning permission was granted following a vote subject to conditions.