Plans to change Barnstaple’s former post office into a tanning studio have been approved by councillors.

Consol Southwest was given permission to transform the empty property in Boutport Street into a salon with 14 tanning booths by North Devon Council’s planning committee on Wednesday (June 10).

The decision was made despite warnings the new studio could put two independent salons in the town out of business.

Leanne Shurety, who owns Perfect Tans in Queen Street, told the committee the new studio was likely to lead to the closure of her business and nearby Aurora Tans in Market Street, run by Sue Chugg.

“The proposed business is operated by a national chain and the concern is if approved it will undermine both of our businesses,” said Ms Shurety.

“We are supported by a loyal and local client base, as shown by the numerous representations, but the application would result in the loss of our businesses.”

Councillor Robbie Mack had called in the application to be debated by the committee, citing the potential loss of local business and a potential net loss of jobs.

He said: “It’s an important building and it needs to be brought back into use, but I don’t believe this is the right use. I don’t believe it adds to the vitality and viability of the town centre.”

A report for the application recommended approval, saying it is not for the planning framework to decide if a further unit would have an adverse impact on another business.

Approval was moved by Councillor Joe Tucker, who said: “We are living through challenging and sad times – I do feel the concerns of the two other tanning studios in town, but we can’t stifle competition and, whatever we think, at the end of the day this building has been empty for four years and has been widely advertised.”

Councillor Malcolm Prowse added: “High streets and town centres are changing and this is a use that will take up a building that has been an eyesore for a long, long time. We’ve got no option but to approve it.”

The Consol studio is set to be open from 7am until 10pm every day, employing one full time and one part time member of staff.

A total of 13 councillors voted to approve the application – albeit with some doing so ‘reluctantly’ – while two councillors voted against it.