A skateboard and sports equipment shop is pulling out of Colchester, claiming unhelpful council officials have driven it away.And this isn’t a little struggling business that is hanging on a knife-edge, either.
Mr Khan managed to keep the business going after a fire at the Cowdray Centre in 2006 forced him out of his original unit in the centre’s A Block.Just fantastic…!
Since then, he and Ms Gooderham have turned the company into the UK’s biggest skate, hockey and extreme sports retailer.
However, they say the company’s growth has been in the face of a mass of petty bureaucracy brought down on them by council officials.
The council tried to force the company to remove a van, painted with the Demon Xtreme logo from its regular spot in Cowdray Avenue, claiming – wrongly, it turned out – it breached byelaws.Way to go, Colchester! That’s the way to attract business to your area!
Officials also physically removed advertising boards from the roadside, instead of asking the company to move them.
When Mr Khan made enquiries about recycling the busineess’s waste, he was frustrated to be told it would cost him more than £500 in council charges.
I can see why your motto is: “A place where people want to live, work and visit”. If you’d put ‘do business’ in there, you might have wound up being sued by the advertising authorities…
He said: “We have had nothing but obstacles put in our way from the council, with its nonsensical need to adhere rigidly to old byelaws.And that’s not just his opinion, either:
“When the threatening letters they sent about our van were ignored, officials busied themselves trying to find some legal precedent to remove it, when we were doing nothing wrong.
“All this has cost us money – cost the taxpayers money, too – all unnecessarily.
“We tire of trying to promote our business to Colchester people in the face of these attempts to ‘clean up’ the town.
“It will soon be exceptionally ‘clean’, if no businesses remain, because of the council’s stupidity.”
Mr Khan is the latest in a line of traders who have complained about the council’s tough stance on signs and promotional material.Naturally, the council is staring, wide-eyed, saying ‘What? Us? I don’t understand…’:
The Federation of Small Businesses recently threatened to withdraw its backing from the council because of the dispute.
Nick Barlow, councillor responsible for business, said the council was in a “no win” situation.Oh god, yes, I know, Nick. It's so hard, isn't it? It's just awful when you are forced, forced, to spend your working life hounding those evil, evil capitalists that do nothing but....errr...pay business rates so the council can...errr...employ people like you to...
He said: “If we allow leafleting and flyposting, the town would be covered with it and businesses would complain it looked a mess.
“If we don’t allow it, some businesses will still complain.”
You know what? I can hear the Sympathy Bus revving up, getting ready to pull out. Think I'll get aboard it, Nick, if you don't mind.