THE Body Shop has told its long-standing Oxford franchisee to quit after she missed a renewal deadline while in hospital recovering from a cancer operation.

Dinny Pagan has owned the High Street shop since 1983, when she was offered the franchise by Body Shop founders Anita and Gordon Roddick.

Mrs Pagan was diagnosed with cancer in 1994 and when it returned four years ago she had both breasts removed, followed by lengthy chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

She said: "We are horrified at what happened. I was in hospital at the time when I was supposed to write a letter renewing the agreement.

"Naturally I was otherwise occupied, as were the family, coping with the shock and trauma of it all."

The Body Shop, recently taken over by perfume giant L'Oreal, said in a statement that it had worked hard to find an amicable agreement, but was unable to find a solution.

Mrs Pagan was offered the opportunity to sign a new standard franchise agreement, but with a 15-year term rather than the previous open-ended agreement.

She said the terms of the new agreement were too onerous and that only about 20 franchises remain in the UK out of several hundred previously.

Mrs Pagan and her daughter Kate, who has been managing the shop since her mother retired three years ago, ended up selling the lease and the shop will now become a Jack Wills men's outfitter.

Mrs Pagan added: "We think it's a very sad end after 23 years. The early days were huge fun.

"I was very keen on the ethical side and recycling I was inspired by Anita.

"I understand that they have a different strategy now, but this is just unacceptable."

The three full-time staff plus 17 part-timers, including two with special needs, have all been offered posts at a new Body Shop which will be run from premises elsewhere in Oxford.

She added: "We have had the best people working for us. My managers Laura Mortimer, Louise Flanagan, Chrissie Wright, Jane Stoneham and Julie Godfrey have given 46 years' service between them.

"Our customers have also been fantastic, supporting all our causes and fundraising for many Body Shop campaigns."

Body Shop spokesman Bill Eyres said the Pagans had a three-month period to confirm that their franchise company, trading as Sanglier, wanted to renew.

He added: "Over the last two years, we have offered Sanglier the opportunity to sign a new standard franchise agreement, but with a 15-year term, longer than we normally offer.

"This standard agreement has been signed by many of our franchisees around the world who operate successfully and profitably under its terms.

"Over the last two years, we also offered to buy the franchise business from Sanglier for what we are satisfied was a fair and generous price.

"The Body Shop has taken account of the difficult health issues that Dinny has faced over the last few years and has made every effort to find a mutually acceptable way forward.

"Unfortunately we were unable to achieve a resolution of this issue and as a result had to end the franchise relationship."