THE OWNER of a fitness studio in Newcastle West is afraid that she will have to close her doors and let go of her staff after receiving a warning letter about her lack of planning permission.
Dee Morrissey has operated the A & G Fitness Studio in the Desmond Business Park for the past 15 months, and employs three part-time staff as well as a number of instructors.
However she recently received a warning letter from Limerick County Council about her failure to secure approval for the facility.
Ms Morrissey, who borrowed €15,500 to purchase gym equipment for the business, said that she may have no other choice but to shut down.
“Between applying for planning, getting a fire safety cert and everything else, it’s going to cost €8,000 to €10,000. I’m probably going to have to shut down in two months.
“I have three people who came off social welfare working for me; I’m going to have to let them go. I’ve about another six who come in to run classes”.
Ms Morrissey said that she believes that the council were alerted to her lack of planning by a confidential complaint from a member of the public.
She admitted that she was “unaware” that she needed to secure planning permission, obtain a fire safety certificate, install disabled access and carry out other works when she opened the business.
The studio currently opens from 4.30pm to 9pm each day, with an average of 28 classes per week. Patrons have the option to pay-as-you-go or purchase membership.
When asked if she would be able to extend her lines of credit and borrow extra money to secure planning permission and licences, Ms Morrissey said her business “isn’t busy enough to do that”.
She said that despite her lack of planning, she has been paying commercial rates to the county council since she first opened.
“I’ve got one warning letter, and the next letter’s going to be an enforcement letter. But I’ve been advised that because I’ve paid rates, I shouldn’t shut down until the enforcement comes”, Ms Morrissey added.
A spokesperson for Limerick County Council stated that it has recently been brought to their attention that planning permission had not been sought for the change of use of the premises in the business park from light warehousing to a public fitness studio.
Generally once a complaint has been made to the council and an inspection carried out, people suspected of breaching planning rules are issued with a warning letter, and are given one month to respond.
If the situation is not resolved, the council can issue an enforcement notice, which could ultimately lead to court proceedings.