North Devon’s advertising rules are ‘bad for business’

Barnstaple High Street

Barnstaple High Street - Credit: Archant

Traders criticise council’s ‘heavy handed’ approach to banners and signs.

UP to 50 businesses in Barnstaple have been sent warning letters telling them to remove advertising signs during the past year.

Figures obtained by the Gazette show that most of the traders issued planning enforcement warnings by North Devon Council removed signs and banners to avoid further action being taken.

There have been five notices served on premises in the past year, but only one prosecution. Two cases are still pending and two were dropped when the advertising was removed.

But many have criticised the council’s ‘heavy handed’ approach at a time when they are fighting the credit crunch.


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Dianne, the owner of Roundswell-based Beds@Barnstaple, said the council asked her to remove a ‘visually unacceptable’ banner by the main road.

She said footfall to her shop on the Sainsbury’s site had dropped alarmingly since the banner was removed.

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“We heard rumours going around we had closed down, which infuriates me,” she said.

“We have spoken to customers who have come in and they are all on our side, saying the council should be trying to help small business.”

Julian Turner, landlord of the Wrey Arms in Barnstaple and The Aggi in Braunton, told the Gazette the Wrey’s recent closure was due to a lack of trade, that hadn’t been helped by orders to remove banners advertising events at the pub.

He said: “They have to understand that my two businesses were employing around 30 people, which has now gone down to half that.

“Why shouldn’t I be able to advertise and say this is what we have going on? We need to get the economy going, not to prevent people from trying to generate money to make businesses work.”

An overhead swinging sign at the former premises of Andy Casey Photography in Paiges Lane also attracted council attention for being too low – two-and-a-half years after it was installed.

“They said it had to be above first floor level and above the window over the premises, so basically it had to be on the roof,” said Andy.

“I totally respect there are regulations, but when a sign has been there that long, it is almost as if they are justifying their jobs.”

In the end nothing came of it and the business is now in Queen Street.

Under planning regulations, it is an offence to display advertising without consent and many traders have been caught out by routine inspections by council enforcement officers, who also follow up complaints from the public or other businesses.

The council was unable to say how many advertising cases there had been across North Devon as a whole, but it said there had been around 400 planning enforcement cases in the financial year to date, which included advertising as well as other offences. This compares with 415 last year.

Gratton’s Butchers in Boutport Street was hit with a hefty fine in September after displaying a banner above the shop. Magistrates ordered owner David Gratton to pay more than £1,200.

“I think the council needs to sort themselves out on these kinds of issues,” said his brother Darren.

“They should let businesses advertise more than they do, or make the rules crystal clear and with one rule for everybody.”

Keith Bines, lead planning officer for Barnstaple, said there was a great deal information on the council website about advertisement control and how to apply for consent.

He said: “We would much prefer businesses to contact us to find out what they can and can’t do, rather than for us to have to take enforcement action.”

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