Nine-year-old boy’s shopfront artwork could be removed by council

Artwork designed by a nine-year-old boy may be scrubbed off the shutters of a small business because of council rules.

The colourful design on the security shutters of Alsager Computers in Stoke-on-Trent shows a smiling cartoon phone and laptop holding hands alongside the firm’s name and phone number.

It was brought to life by a local artist and has been on the shutters since May.

But planning chiefs from Cheshire East Council have issued the computer shop’s owner, Richard Murrow, with an enforcement notice after a complaint was made about the art.

Following an inspection, a planning enforcement officer from the local authority has deemed that the artwork “constitutes an advertisement”.

Richard, 40, received a letter last week informing him that he could either apply for advertisement consent (though this is unlikely to be granted), remove the artwork completely or face possible enforcement action.

The father-of-three is calling on the council to change its stance as he says other nearby businesses have advertisements in their windows and it would “be crushing his son’s dreams” of becoming an artist if they had to remove it.

He told Stoke-on-Trent Live : “They came in on Wednesday and said there had been a complaint about the shutters and they were trying to gain some information. I said we’d had our son’s artwork painted on the shutters by a local artist and they said they would go back to the council.

“The very next day we got this letter saying the art was considered to be an advertisement, when it’s just a painting and it’s on our own shop. We own the building, it’s not like we’re renting and there’s shops all down the street that have things in their windows.

“If it was somewhere else or if it was offensive I’d understand, but it’s just a nice picture. If they’re saying having our name and phone number on it as advertising, then we’ll happily take that out.

“There’s also graffiti style artwork 200 metres away at the skate park. I just feel like we’re being singled out for it.

“There’s other shops in this street with smashed windows like the pharmacy, whereas this is a beautifully decorated shutter. That’s not allowed, but smashed windows, broken signs and empty shops are?”

A Cheshire East Council spokesman said: “As a result of a complaint, a council planning enforcement officer visited the premises and inspected the artwork signage, which constitutes an advertisement. This requires the benefit of consent to display an advertisement.

“This has been brought to the attention of the proprietor and advice given as to the various options open to them.

“These include the submission of a retrospective application for advertisement consent, removal of the artwork altogether, or possible enforcement action should they choose neither of these options.

“The business has been given 28 days in which to respond.”