The Barn at Beal Sign saga goes head to head

A NORTHUMBERLAND visitor attraction yesterday went head to head with council and road bosses over its bid to keep an advertising sign.

Owner Rodney Smith

A NORTHUMBERLAND visitor attraction yesterday went head to head with council and road bosses over its bid to keep an advertising sign.

The Barn at Beal, a farming centre near Holy Island, took on Northumberland County Council and the Highways Agency following its appeal against the local authority’s decision to refuse retrospective permission for the sign.

The attraction, run by Rodney Smith on his farm, put up the sign mounted on the back of a cart at the side of the A1 in a bid to draw in visitors.

But on the second day of it being in place, the council served a notice on Mr Smith ordering him to remove it.

In a statement to The Journal at the time, the council said Mr Smith could submit a retrospective application for advertisement consent for the sign.

The businessman followed that advice, but the authority refused his proposal.

Mr Smith submitted an appeal, resulting in yesterday morning’s hearing in front of planning inspector Anthony Lyman.

The council’s principle planning officer for Northumberland Asif Khan told Mr Lyman, sitting at Berwick’s William Elder building, that it considered the erection of the sign without permission to have been a criminal offence and that it is waiting to proceed with the enforcement action, should it win the appeal.

The council claimed the sign is out of character with the intermediate area of high landscape value and open countryside in which it is judged to sit, arguing Beal is not classed as a settlement due to lack of amenities.

Mr Khan said: “We just believe it is an eye-catching feature which will stick out in the beautiful countryside.”

Agency bosses told the hearing the sign is an area where there is a proliferation of others and that it increases the chances of motorists being distracted.

This, the agency added, could possibly lead to accidents.

Mr Khan said the structure should be removed “in case there is a fatality there.”

Yet Mr Smith questioned why he was not allowed to keep the sign, despite nearby businesses Haggerston Castle and Sunnyhill of Belford being allowed to have them at the side of the A1.

He argued his is not in open countryside as it is close to a pub, a garage and other amenities and claimed it was designed to fit in with its surroundings.

He said: “It is visually appropriate, it is meant to be eye-catching in a discreet way.”

On the highways issue, Mr Smith claimed there had been no accidents on the stretch of A1 heading south since 2004, with a speed camera helping slow down vehicles, and also argued it should not be presumed that signs distract drivers.

Mr Lyman told the parties he hoped to make a decision on the appeal within four weeks.

The challenge is not the first time Mr Smith has clashed with authorities over signs at his attraction. In 2008, he put one up before a planning application for it was decided by the now defunct Berwick Borough Council, with that bid eventually refused. Mr Smith appealed, but lost and had to take that sign down.

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