THE owner of a Skipton ice cream boat business is worried about its future viability after being told it now needs planning permission.

Andrew Grainger, of Moorland Terrace, Skipton, has owned the popular Skipton Ice Cream Tug Boat, which is moored near Belmont Bridge, for the past four years.

He now wants to sell it to Catherine McGettigan and Nick Hughes, who have run it since it opened in April this year, but a complication arose as he began the process of transferring ownership to the Skipton couple.

The Canal and River Trust has written to Mr Grainger to request that he seeks planning permission.

"I never needed planning permission in the first place," he said. "It's just little blue boat floating on the water that sells ice cream. It's a well-liked thing and we have thousands of people each year who just like to get their picture taken with it."

The seasonal business, which is usually open from the end of March to early October,

"They've made a whole new set of rules, and now we've got to go through all this just to sell the business," said Mr Grainger. "If we don't do this are we going to have to shut it at the end of the season?"

"We're quite perplexed," said Mrs McGettigan. "It's been trading for four years with no problems or complaints. This is a bureaucratic exercise that is putting everything in doubt.

"We want to take over the business as is and run it like Andrew has for the last four years," she said. "People want it, it's really successful and we would like it to continue."

But the Canal and River stressed that they are working with Mr Grainger as they would like to see the ice cream tug boat stay.

A Canal and River Trust spokesman said: “To operate from a fixed location on the canal people need a trading mooring agreement. A condition of the trading mooring agreement is that they have planning permission from the local planning authority because the 'fixed location trading' constitutes a change of use of that land.

“The current owner has not previously sought planning permission and the local planning authority has never requested it. Historically we have licensed the business despite this.

“However, we now endeavour to deal with applications consistently and we are treating this new application as we would any other.

“We are fully supportive of the ice cream boat business continuing at this location but wish it to be fully compliant with our and other statutory bodies regulations.

“We have spoken with the owner and have agreed to assist him either with meeting the planning officer to determine the planning situation and/or with completing the planning application.”