Hundreds back signs battle

Coun Peter Jackson will be receiving a petition at Morpeth's County Hall from Sarah Annett from The Country Barn Ltd in Widdrington village about the loss of their advertising signs, which is threatening their business.
Coun Peter Jackson will be receiving a petition at Morpeth's County Hall from Sarah Annett from The Country Barn Ltd in Widdrington village about the loss of their advertising signs, which is threatening their business.
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HUNDREDS of people have put pen to paper to support a Widdrington farm business in its signage dispute with Northumberland County Council.

A total of 530 people signed a petition at The Country Barn and Coffee Shop, which was in place between Saturday, July 16 and Sunday, July 24.

And the Conservative group has backed owners Sarah and Hugh Annett after the county council ordered them to take down four promotional boards in their fields either side of the A1068 between Morpeth and Amble.

Now following complaints of heavy-handedness by asking businesses and event organisers across Northumberland to take down road signs, the council has agreed to review its enforcement policy.

The letter to the Annetts came following a complaint that their signs were an ‘eyesore’ and officers said upon investigation they were in breach of legislation.

But Leader of Northumberland Conservatives Peter Jackson said: “At a difficult time for our local economy the council should be doing everything it can to support business as they strive to create wealth and jobs for local people.

“It is unacceptable that council bureaucrats are frustrating economic growth by making it nearly impossible for businesses to advertise their location in order to enhance their commercial prospects.

“Why on earth are council officers spending time on this rather than on improving the performance of the planning department, which remains one of the worst performing in the country?”

Although the authority insists it will continue to take action where necessary, it is now taking another look at its procedures.

Caroline Bruce, corporate director of local services, said: “Unauthorised signage can blight our countryside and compromise highway safety and so we have to enforce any inappropriate signage.

“However, we realise that there is a balance between meeting the needs of local businesses and protecting the environment and highway safety.

“We are reviewing our enforcement policy and this will be complete in the Autumn.

“Under certain conditions small signs promoting fairs, fetes and charity events do not have to have consent, but organisers do need to talk to us – we try all the time to work with people to help them achieve what they want.”