A PLAN to transform an empty shop into a tattoo studio has been given the go-ahead, despite concerns over the loss of a retail site.

New Forest District Council’s planning committee approved, subject to conditions, an application by Lovingink Tattoos for a change of use of an A1 retail unit on High Street, Fordingbridge into a tattoo studio.

Concerns were raised by Fordingbridge Town Council over the loss of a prime retail site.

However, the meeting on December 9 heard it was the officer’s view that it “won’t result in a concentration of non-shopping use that would alter the retail character of the area”.

A representative speaking on behalf of the applicant said the tattoo studio would bring new people to the town and artwork would be put up in the premises.

Fordingbridge Town councillors, like deputy mayor Anna Wilson, had previously opposed the proposal. She said: “The shop is large and has a prominent position as it stands out where the footpath narrows. We feel the loss of such a large retail premises would have a big effect on our high street.”

“The diversity of retail outlets serving the needs of the town and surrounding villages is its main attraction. It would not take the demise of more than a few retail outlets for this to be lost,” she added.

The meeting heard there was no plan to black-out the new studio’s window but there were regulations to ensure tattooing was not visible. The tattooing would be done at the rear of the building.

Councillor Sue Bennison saw the positives of the plan. She said: “I think we have to all agree that high streets do have to change and they have to evolve. This change of use to a tattoo parlour may well bring people into the high street to use other shops, cafes or restaurants.”

She noted there was already a tattoo studio in the town and also liked the idea about the artwork.

She added: “We don’t want empty shops, we want the high streets to look like they are occupied and have a reason for people to visit the high street.”

Councillor Ann Sevier said there were no planning reasons to turn it down.

Councillor Annie Bellows added: “It is a big property. It is a shame that it is empty and not going to be used for anything else but it would be good to have some usage there and have a nice window frontage.”