THE installation of a "garish" take-away shop sign without planning permission has spoiled the distinct look of a conservation area, it is claimed.

BBQ Express is due to open shortly in a unit previously occupied by Chicken Spot in High Street, Wanstead, and the owner has placed a large, multi-coloured sign on the shop front. But it is not to everyone's liking and there are calls for the council to take swift action.

The Wanstead Society, a group committed to preserving the area's heritage, has put in a formal objection to Redbridge council.

Member Geoff Horsnell said: "I thought I was in Las Vegas when I saw it. It is a bit garish for my liking and not in keeping with the high street.

"The Chicken Spot put up their shop front before the high street was declared a conservation area, so if it is the same owner he could simply argue he was replacing like for like.

"I think my list of shops on the high street in breach of planning is six or seven. This is the problem once one shop gets away with it, others will try."

Brian Page, 69, of New Wanstead, said: "I walked past it wearing dark glasses - it's far too big and bright.

"The council will no doubt come down on them like a tonne of bricks. They are just asking for trouble.

"You can't pull a fast one in Wanstead - our heritage is too important."

Father-of-two Mark Samuels, 38, of Wellington Road, said: "It's pretty ironic the shop front is opposite the high street signs that stress the conservation area.

"I think one of the benefits of living round here is that we have a lovely high street and we should maintain that."

Cllr Alex Wilson, of the regional planning committee west, confirmed the shop does not have planning permission for the sign.

He said: "I express my disappointment that the work appears to have been carried out without consent.

"I am aware that officers are on the case and hope that the correct procedures are followed."

A visit to the site by council enforcement officers is set to take place in the near future.

A council spokesman said: "We have received three complaints about the sign at BBQ Express and we are currently looking into this.

"No application for advertisement consent has been received.

"To date, there have been eight investigations about alleged breaches of planning control in High Street."

The Guardian has been unable to contact the shopowner.

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