Wigan home-working hairdresser to take on councillor "bullies"
Natalie Heaton, who has been cutting clients’ hair from a utility room for four years, has won the right to continue trading from her Gorman Street home.
Councillors granted planning permission to use the rear room of her property as a hairdressing salon – but it comes more than a year after a local authority officer first knocked on her door and the long process began.
The mother of two said: “I’m absolutely over the moon with the result.
“I’ve been to hell and back. It’s been the worst time of my life. It’s made me ill.”
The former Toni and Guy employee left her job to start a business with her sister and soon went solo in 2016 after taking time off to have her first child.
She was told by the local authority that the process to apply for planning permission would be “straightforward” and cost a one-off payment of £500.
But months later she discovered that one neighbour had objected to the application and councillors called for the matter to be decided by committee.
The hairdresser was also reported to police and trading standards by a neighbour who, she says, made “false statements” about the business trading during lockdown – accusations repeated by the Mayor at this week’s meeting.
In a statement submitted by Wigan West councillor Steve Dawber, which was read out to the planning committee, he spoke of “anecdotal evidence” that Natalie was “offering her services” despite the coronavirus restrictions.
But when asked by the Local Democracy Reporting Service to verify the claims, he was unable to provide any further information about the reports.
Coun Dawber, who is the Mayor of Wigan, complained about constant parking and flooding problems in the area, as well as alley gates regularly being left open to “accommodate the clientele of the hairdressing business”.
He said: “I’m all in favour of supporting local businesses and start-up businesses, especially if they are local people working from home.
“But my view is that this application would go some way to undo all the work that councillors have done in the past.”
Natalie says she now plans to take action against councillors she claims have “bullied” her and she has reported a neighbour to police for harassment.
Speaking on her behalf at the committee meeting on Tuesday, solicitor Michael Miller described the application as “incredibly uncontroversial”.
He said: “It’s extremely unfortunate that we’ve even reached this juncture and it’s caused Mrs Heaton significant stress and inconvenience particularly seeing as the potential of her financial stability is immediately removed.
“Whilst the ward councillor who is objecting to this application has a duty to balance the interest of those constituents that he represents, the fact of the matter is he is not a resident in Gorman Street. But of the residents of Gorman Street, there have been nine instances of support and just one objection.”
A spokesperson for Wigan Council confirmed that a trading standards officer spoke to the business owner about operating during lockdown, but there was no evidence to support the allegation, so no further action was taken.