Nail technician has her home-run business destroyed after council enforces she cease trading.
A mum says Mid Devon District Council have taken away all her happiness after ceasing trade at her home nail salon.
Mother of one, Zara Nichols, 32, has run Nail Envy from her council house on Ford Road in Tiverton since January 2017.
However, she may be forced to stop on December 10 after Mid Devon District Council notified her that she did not have permission; despite having a letter to the contrary.
She said: “The Council initially permitted me to run a business from home. Mid Devon came to interview me to make sure everything was okay and asked me how many clients I serviced and such.
“At the time I did not have so many; I was mainly dealing with family and friends. I thought a lot of customers would be one-timers, but over the years I have built a very loyal clientele who visit once a week.”
Miss Nichols currently works three to five days a week but says Mid Devon believe that it is too much and are unhappy.
“They think I've broken my original permission because I've got more clients than when I originally started,” she said. “It was never stipulated there was a maximum number.
“Mid Devon District Council wrote and authorised my business in a letter in 2017, however on September 24 I had a phone call from the Council saying that I was running a business from my council house and that I did not have permission.
“I argued with them, and they demanded proof. When I told them I could not provide the original letter until after I had finished with clients that afternoon, they threatened to stop me trading if they did not have it that same afternoon.
“I provided that for her and as far as I was concerned that was the end of it. About a week later I had a letter saying I didn't have planning permission for a structure in my garden and also that I was servicing too many clients. I contacted them, entered an appeal, and they finally came and visited about three weeks later.”
In that time, Miss Nichols was forced to stop trading. She said it goes against her tenancy agreement.
She added: “Mid Devon District Council came to visit with no concerns or questions prepared and they told me it was a lovely little space and understood why I wanted to carry on working. They deemed my workspace perfectly suitable, and they could see everything was PAT (portable appliance testing) tested, and they shook my hand and left more than happy with everything they had seen.
“Eight days later I received a letter saying the answer was still no, with reasons being that they seem to think I've got a new member of staff. The only thing I can think of is that in summer holidays I promoted another nail technician, a close family friend, who also works on Ford Road. I also promote a massage therapist on my Facebook page.
“They had noted that but after I contacted them about it, they stood by the fact that I service more clients than when I started.”
Miss Nichols has unsuccessfully appealed the decision and has been told she must cease trading on December 10.
“I launched a petition in November which has had more than 2000 signings. The support is comforting, but in all honesty, I don't feel petition is going to help.
“I do suffer from anxiety and depression, and that is why I do this. I gave up my job as a bookkeeper to do this, and it suits me so well. I'm not on any medication, I was loving life, and they've taken away my happiness and destroyed my life.
“I believe that the Director of Operations at Mid Devon who began his role in March 2017, doesn't believe any business should be run from council houses and if I had asked for permission after March, it would have been a no.”
Miss Nichols says that this goes against Council policy where permission to run a business at home would not be withheld unfairly.
“I believe that he's doing this because he doesn't want me here for some reason. I think that somebody with a fairer head needs to consider that my clients are visiting one at a time three to five days a week school hours only isn't a nuisance to the neighbourhood. My neighbours fully support me, and they've sent emails to express that. I want them to consider that my one client at a time isn't causing any issues.”
Mid Devon District Council have encouraged Miss Nichols to take on premises at the Pannier Market; however she is against that idea.
“My customers will have to pay £2 to park, and that's not an option. I've got a family, and I can't invest in new premises. I'd have to expand, and my profit margin won't allow for it.”
A spokesperson for Mid Devon District Council told The Gazette: “Our tenancy agreement states that a tenant needs to obtain written consent if they are planning to set up a business from their home.
“In January 2017, our Housing Service became aware that Ms Nichols was running a business from home without the appropriate consent. She sought retrospective permission to run a nail salon from the shed she had converted; the shed being an integral part of her home.
“The decision relating to whether or not permission is granted depends on a number of factors, including the nature of the business, its potential impact on others and whether it is a reasonable use for a domestic property.
“Whilst we stand by our original decision the Housing Service are in ongoing discussion with Ms Nichols.”