A Daventry business owner faces losing her livelihood after complications arose while renovating her store to reveal its original medieval facade.
Dawn Branigan, 57, owns First Light Photographic, which is housed in a Grade II listed building in Daventry’s High Street and is the town’s oldest edifice.
After a renovation project to reveal the shop’s original medieval fronting dating to 1450, the day before paying off the initial loan Dawn was told by her solicitor she owed £17,000 in financial penalties imposed by the lender for over-running the deadline - due to circumstances Dawn says were beyond her control (the build being held up by the conservation officer and last winter's adverse weather) - as well as £8,000 for additional building work.
“It was like being kicked in the stomach,” said professional photographer Dawn, who works in the shop by herself.
“Without the shop, I have no livelihood.”
“I don’t just own the shop, I’m the custodian for the building for this generation and I think it should be preserved for the people in Daventry,” she added.
Things became complicated when, a little over five years ago during some minor repairs to the building, major structural problems were found.
Scaffolding was erected to support the shop, which affected Dawn’s business.
On top of that, she found out the building was in fact listed - despite being told the contrary because it had been registered to the wrong address.
Planning application became harder to get approved, but the decision to restore the original medieval facade was eventually granted after an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate.
After two years it was time to look for a builder.
Dawn said: “Having found a suitably qualified joiner, it took us a further 18 months to find a builder to take on the project - all the time, the costs for the scaffolding are mounting and turnover is dropping.”
The scaffolding finally came down after five years, but the day before completion Dawn’s solicitor called with the bad news.
Dawn has had no financial support or grants and could soon hand in the keys to the shop.
She now hopes her crowdfunding page will help her raise enough money to open the second floor of the shop as planned in order to use it as an exhibition space for artists, and thus bring in additional income.
“We never wanted to reach the stage where we had to literally beg to keep the business, but that is the position we find ourselves in today,” said Dawn, who lives in Lang Farm.
She says her customers, who come from all over the county, regularly praise her for the work she has done with the shop, with Daventry residents, in particular, enjoying what it’s done to change the town’s landscape.
You can donate to Dawn’s project here.