BRIDGWATER Post Office could still be turned into a tanning salon after a planning appeal was upheld.

Sedgemoor District Council refused permission for plans to turn the ground floor of 27 Eastover (which currently houses the post office) in a solarium with 21 beds.

The council argued in June – after the post office had briefly closed and then reopened – that losing the post office would damage the viability of the ‘celebration mile’ and the wider town centre.

Boon Brown Architects has now won its appeal against the council’s decision – meaning the change could still go ahead once the post office’s lease runs out.

Planning inspector Neil Pope said the post office was currently operating “without any formal lease or renewed temporary licence” (after a temporary licence granted in May expired) and the current franchisee “no longer wishes to continue operating Post Office services.”

The council’s own planning policy permits non-retail space within a predominantly retail area, so long as it does not “result in a concentration of single uses” – in other words, the high street suffered because of too many similar businesses in one area.

A solarium is currently operated by Gloden at 3 Eastover.

Mr Pope said turning the post office into a new solarium “would not result in a concentration of single uses”.

He admitted the footfall which the new business could generate was “likely to be much lower” than the footfall presently generated by the post office – but said this was not enough to rule that the change would be “harmful”.

He said: “There is no evidence to indicate that the existing solarium has adversely affected the vitality or viability of the town centre.

“There is also nothing to indicate that the cumulative impact of both solaria, which would be separated by a variety of other uses would be harmful.

“The proposed use of the appeal site is a popular leisure pastime, which in itself would create its own footfall and could offer a wider and more diverse experience for visitors to the town centre.

“The proposed change of use would not harm the vitality and viability of Bridgwater town centre, including its planned regeneration.

“It would be unsound to withhold planning permission on the basis of perceived fears over the safe operation of the proposed solarium.”

The council has also been ordered to pay the legal costs of Boon Brown Architects.

Mr Pope said the council had “acted unreasonably by delaying development” in the area.