Business left counting the cost over signs row

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A WIDDRINGTON business says it will be counting the cost even if it is allowed to put its advertising signs back up.

Owners Sarah and Hugh Annett were left stunned when Northumberland County Council ordered them last month to remove four boards which promote The Country Barn Farm Shop and Coffee Shop following a complaint.

As the firm is located on Widdrington Farm, the signs have been crucial in attracting new customers.

The authority took action after planning officers said they were in breach of legislation. Other businesses and some volunteer groups across the county have also been asked to take down boards.

Following accusations of heavy-handedness it has agreed to review its enforcement policy, but this will not be completed until late autumn and so those businesses and groups with complaints against them will have to keep their signs in storage.

Mrs Annett said: “We think it’s very unfair that some signs like ours will be allowed to stay in place while the review is carried out, but because ours have received a complaint we have to keep them down.

“Going to review means there is a massive question mark over whether the council’s actions were correct, so surely it should take the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ line until it has been completed.

“Even if it goes in our favour, we will lose out massively by not having the boards up during the summer and early autumn.”

“We are going to have a meeting with planning officers on Thursday and we can only hope that something can be sorted out.”

The Country Barn handed in a petition with 530 signatures supporting the signs to County Hall last week and a similar number have put pen to paper on a second petition this week.

Acting Head of Development at Northumberland County Council Karen Ledger said: “As previously reported, we have put on hold further enforcement action against unauthorised signs pending the outcome of the review, except where we receive complaints or there is a serious highways safety issue.

“However, businesses should be aware that it remains an offence to erect an unauthorised sign.

“I understand that the owner of the Widdrington Barn is in discussion with officers about that business’ signage requirements.”