THE OWNER of a Newcastle West fitness studio who has been operating without planning permission has been forced to shut her doors.
Dee Morrissey closed her A&G Fitness Studio in the Desmond Business Park after receiving a planning enforcement notice from Limerick County Council, which has ordered that she vacate the premises by June 1.
Ms Morrissey has described the situation, which has forced her to let go of her three part-time staff and cancel classes for over 30 customers, as “pathetic” and “very wrong”.
The issue stems from the fact that Ms Morrissey’s premises, which she leased in January 2012, is zoned for retail and showroom use. Two months ago she received a warning letter from the council over her failure to secure permission to use the premises as a gym, something which was brought to their attention through a complaint from a member of the public.
Ms Morrissey has since had “several meetings” with council officials, but was told that if she wished to apply for a change of use at her current premises, she will be charged almost three times more than she would if it were an empty building.
Ms Morrissey said that she had no choice but to close her doors, cancel classes and let go of her staff, as she would have had to pay over €17,000 to stay where she is.
“I do acknowledge that I should have got the planning myself from day one But [the retention charges] are pathetic. It’s very wrong. I’m very frustrated. I’m lucky that my customers have been very supportive. I’m blessed with the customers I have”.
Ms Morrissey spent a total of €17,000 fitting out the premises, paid for out of a €22,00 bank loan. She said that she intends to open in a new premises in the town in September, and hopes to re-hire her staff.
A spokesperson for the Limerick County Council planning department said that “we don’t have any discretion” on planning retention fees and rules, which are set by the Government. A fresh application for change of use is charged at €3.80 per square metre. A retention application is two-and-a-half times as much.