RULES surrounding roadside advertising in Northumberland will be resolved once and for all in a final review of the thorny issue.
The County Council has drawn up a review of policy in the aftermath of a series of run-ins with small businesses that put up roadside ads.
The authority is trying to reach a compromise between enforcing rules and helping businesses during the economic downturn.
A report is to go before councillors today and the council’s executive next month recommending a plan which, it is hoped, will reduce the number of unauthorised signs without damaging local enterprise.
The council’s north area manager Peter Rutherford said: “The principle which runs through regulation of advertisements is the interests of protecting local amenity and public safety.
“However, at a time when many small businesses are operating against a background of national austerity, there is a need to support enterprise and retain as much economic activity as possible.” The issue was highlighted in the summer when the owners of an award-winning farm cafe were ordered to remove four signs they had put up on a main approach road.
Hugh and Sarah Annett, who run the Country Barn at Widdrington, near Morpeth, won local support – including a 530-name petition, and were eventually allowed to replace two of the signboard adverts on stilts alongside the A1068.
Sarah said yesterday: “We were delighted to get the two signs back but we are still suffering the affects of going six weeks without the signs in the summer. I would welcome a general overall council policy, but at the same time there is a need to look at each case individually as far as possible.”
Sarah, and Hugh, who married in June, have run the cafe since 2006 and pinned their original roadside adverts to farm machinery in fields near the main road.
However, following a complaint, the council ordered them to take the signs down. Sarah added: “It happened over the summer holidays and right at the beginning of our summer trade period.
“We told the council it could affect 33 jobs here and could be the final nail in the coffin.
“Unless people on the A1068 have a crystal ball, they don’t know we’re there.
“We ran a survey and 90% of our customers said they had seen the signs, which indicates just how important those signs are.”
The Journal also highlighted the cases of Glanton Show, Rothbury Football Club and a North Broomhill guest house which fell foul of planning regulations.
Letters threatening legal and enforcement action had been sent out, but in the fall-out council chief executive Steve Stewart ordered a review of policy.
Now the council is seeking a “cohesive and positive” approach.
Mr Rutherford says in his report: “The review suggests the council should adopt a positive approach to advertisements to help support local businesses and community groups, without compromising local amenity or public safety.”
Advice and guidance will be given to roadside advertisers with a “consistent approach” providing a balance between supporting local enterprise and protecting the environment.