Traders' warning over shop signs row

INDEPENDENT traders in a picturesque Suffolk village say they could be forced out of business because of "unfair" council demands to remove advertising signs.

INDEPENDENT traders in a picturesque Suffolk village say they could be forced out of business because of "unfair" council demands to remove advertising signs.

Shop owners in Lavenham have been told to make massive cuts to the number of A-boards and wall signs used to attract visitors to a hidden corner of the village.

The signs, which have been featured on postcards of Lavenham, have adorned walls and pavements of Merchants' Row in Water Street for more than 10 years.

But officials at Babergh District Council have asked some traders to remove the advertisements as part of a scheme to tidy up the overall look of the village.

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Ian George, owner of gift and specialist toy shop Curiosity Corner, in Water Street, said the future of his business has been thrown into uncertainty and believes some traders could even be forced to close as a result of a loss in trade when the signs are taken away.

"I have four signs outside my shop that have been there for 13 years without any problems," said Mr George.

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"I recently spent £400 renovating the signs as they were getting tatty, and now I have been told that I have got to take two of them down.

"Lavenham is a small village that relies on tourism and passing trade, and I am worried that my business will suffer without adequate advertising."

Paul Jolly, who has owned Sweet Meats shop and tearoom, in Water Street, for the past two and a half years, said: "I used to have two A-boards outside the front of my shop, which I have now taken away.

"My shop is not visible from the high street and I am worried that I am not going to be able to attract enough visitors.

"I will not know just how badly my business has been hit until Easter, when the village gets busier. I have a family to feed and my shop is my livelihood, and I am concerned about the adverse effect this will have on my business and others in the same situation as me."

Michael Collins, Babergh's conservation officer, said: "The situation at the Merchants' Row is especially serious with the six shops there displaying no less than 35 signs between them.

"After meeting with the businesses last year, we agreed that each could have two signs, but they had to make an application to get the necessary listed building consent.

"In order not to disadvantage their trade as the tourist season approaches, Babergh would also ensure that the village's 30 other unauthorised signs were removed at the same time as theirs, as long as the applications were made. Sadly, none of the six businesses have done this, which is why they find themselves in the current position".

Richard Watson, head of planning at Babergh District Council, added: "As with all advertisements, we try to work with people rather than against them.

"We are always conscious about retaining the character of the village.

"We feel that there are ways that the shops can advertise their businesses without effecting the special character of the buildings they occupy."

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