THE sunbed parlour firm at the centre of a planning dispute in Glasgow has built up an impressive and lucrative empire in a matter of months.

Tan Ko Ltd, which was refused retrospective planning permission for its salon on Alexandra Parade, only began trading in November, 2000.

Eight months later, it recorded: turnover of (pounds) 269,978; pre-tax operating profits of (pounds) 95,250, and dividends of (pounds) 70,900. Its net book value was put at more than (pounds) 250,000, mostly in property. The Herald can also reveal that Tan Ko has direct financial links with a major private hire taxi business in the west of Scotland.

Tan Ko's directors are Steven Malcolm, 38, of Ralston, Paisley, and Thomas Wallace, 46, of Mitchell Drive, Milngavie, according to latest documents lodged with Companies House.

The papers also show both men are sole directors of Glasgow Private Hire Ltd, whose principal activity is private hire taxis. In addition, Mr Malcolm is listed as the only director of Paisley Private Hire Ltd, whose main activity is sunbed hire shops. It recorded turnover of (pounds) 708,567 and operating profit of (pounds) 264,414 in the year ended last April.

Tan Ko's filed financial records show it paid management fees of (pounds) 68,400 to Paisley Private Hire, and also bought (pounds) 36,000 worth of second-hand sunbeds from the firm in the year ended last July. It also purchased two properties in Glasgow's Tollcross Road and Shettleston Road from Glasgow Private Hire during the same period. The premises - and others at Cathcart Road and Alexandra Parade, plus Main Road, Cambuslang - were refurbished by Paisley Private Hire at a cost of (pounds) 126,800.

However, the Alexandra Parade sunbed salon must now cease operations until planning issues are resolved, according to Glasgow City Council. Meanwhile, the firm is seeking permission for three more salons in Glasgow, including two in Dumbarton Road. A fourth Dumbarton Road application has been lodged by Paisley Private Hire.

News of the applications coincided with calls by Ian Davidson, the Pollok MP, for an end to the proliferation of sunbed parlours in the city. He has already claimed, in parliament, that many tanning studios are being used by criminals to launder money.

Last night, Sandra White, the Nationalist list MSP for Glasgow, called for a moratorium on new applications for sunbed parlours until issues are addressed by the Scottish Executive. She expressed concerns over lack of licensing control and allegations of criminal activity.

There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by Tan Ko, now embroiled in the controversy over Glasgow's reputation as the ''sunbed capital of the UK''. The city is believed to have 72 salons, just 21 fewer than London which has 10 times as many people.