The Co-operative has been handed more than £2,000 in fines for infringing conservation area rules after it failed to take down illuminated signs on a Northamptonshire store.
The company took over the former Budgens supermarket on High Street, Brackley in December and installed what the company described as “standard” company signage around the premises prior to opening.
But on Tuesday Northampton Magistrates Court heard how the Co-op failed to realise the building fell within the Brackley Old Town Conservation Area, which protects areas of historical interest from undesirable changes, and as such erected the signs without planning permission.
Despite repeated requests from South Northamptonshire Council to remove the slim illuminated strips lighting up the company logo, it failed to do so until May this year.
As a result the council chose to prosecute and the Co-op group was fined a total of £2,174, including court costs, for infringing laws within the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.
Passing sentence, presiding magistrate Terry Riley, said: “We find this very surprising for a business of such standing and reputation.”
South Northamptonshire Council turned down a retrospective planning application for the signs, applied for after they had been put in place, because it decided the fascia was unacceptable given its sensitive location and due to its “length, depth, design, colour, and the materials used.”
The Co-op challenged that decision via the appeals process, but the Planning Inspectorate upheld the council’s decision.
The barrister defending for the Co-op, Emma Williamson, said: “The defendant accepts that a mistake has been made here.
“When the Co-operative group took over the property question it hadn’t realised this was in a conservation area.
“When it did realise it was in a conservation area it immediately applied for permission for the signs.
“There was a genuine expectation that this application would then be granted.
“The sign is standard for a shop which is operated throughout the country.”
Councillor Rebecca Breese, the planning portfolio holder for South Northamptonshire Council, said: “In dealing with planning and advertisement applications, the council seeks to preserve what is special about our district, to ensure that all new developments are of high quality and to protect the built heritage and appearance of our conservation areas.”