The owner of a fish and chip shop at the centre of a row over graffiti art has received a ‘heavy-handed’ letter from Kirklees Council that includes the standard police caution read to people under arrest.
The letter threatens Mathew Tate and The Bridge Fisheries with prosecution for illegal advertising, a £2,500 fine plus £250 PER DAY for each day that the art remains in place.
The penultimate paragraph of the letter, sent by a planning enforcement officer, says: “You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.”
A shocked Mr Tate, 36, says he finds the council’s stance “overly aggressive, extraordinary and ridiculous”. He and girlfriend Morgan Braithwaite have now launched an online petition to keep artwork – a smiling fish nicknamed ‘Boris’ giving a thumbs-up – and are appealing for support.
Mathew commissioned the art after vandals “tagged” his building, on Britannia Road, Slaithwaite, with graffiti. He’d previously paid out £400 to re-paint the walls. He says he’s been overwhelmed by support but admits the council’s stance has him worried.
“All my customers are saying the council’s response is disgusting. People are being very supportive. My landlord’s manager came to see me and even he signed the petition.”
Mathew is now considering making an application for retrospective planning permission in a bid to keep the art even though the council has warned that his shop is in a conservation area and that it would not be approved.
However he says that a successful prosecution and its associated draconian fines and “substantial costs” would bankrupt him.
“The council is using the ‘illegal advertising’ threat as a way of removing it but they know it’s not actually advertising. They do not approve of 21st century art. They are stuck back in the day. It’s very heavy-handed. I feel like I’m being persecuted.”
The council’s letter was even addressed to Little Compo’s, the previous name of the business.
Mathew has now called for intervention from Colne Valley Tory MP Jason McCartney. Colne Valley Tory councillor Donna Bellamy, who is on the council’s planning committee, said: “I advised Mr Tate that he can appeal the enforcement notice via the Planning Inspectorate, which is a government body. I have provided him with details of the website.”
Meanwhile support is growing for Boris the graffiti fish via an online petition at change.org.
Sign the petition at www.change.org/p/kirklees-council-modern-art-of-vandalism ?