Sign saga leaves trader �600 a week down

Businesses on Honiton industrial estate cannot direct customers to their premises.

A business owner at Heathpark Industrial Estate in Honiton says takings are down by �600 a week since Devon County Council forced traders to remove direction signs.

There is no map of businesses trading on the East Devon District Council-run estate and Gareth Patch, owner of GP Valeting, says A-boards are essential to direct customers to his premises.

Devon County Council says businesses on the estate have been committing offences under the Highways Act.

Mr Patch removed his signs from grass verges and a traffic refuge after the council threatened to take legal action.

However, at least two other businesses had their signs confiscated by the county council and have, allegedly, been told they will have to pay to get them back. If they do not pay in 28 days, the signs will be destroyed, it is claimed.

“I am �600 a week down - that’s equivalent to two people’s wages,” Mr Patch told the Midweek Herald. “There is no trade around in the current economic climate and we can’t advertise where we are.”

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He currently employs eight people and says, in the absence of official signs on the estate, A-boards are needed to let customers and passing trade know where his business is.

“My signs were not blocking pathways or roads,” he said.

“This is not the High Street; there are no pedestrians or prams.”

Mr Patch has been in business for 18 months and says he used A-boards right up until he was told to take them in.

A Devon County Council spokesman said: “The national Highways Act guidance says that no unauthorised items, such as advertising boards, should be displayed on the public highway.

“In Devon our policy is more flexible, as we do allow authorised displays on the pavement as long as they are immediately in front of the business and leave a clear 1.5 metres of footpath.

“Some of the businesses on the Heathpark Industrial Estate had placed A-boards on a traffic island, which is clearly an offence under the Highways Act and our highways officers have served notice to businesses to remove A-boards which are not in front of their property.”