Beware the rural planning police

IT seems that the ‘planning police’ are treating town businesses different to our more rural cousins.

I was in Alnwick last week and noticed the proliferation of signs stuck outside businesses and also the increased use of the pavements as an opportunity to sell goods.

I know the newspaper industry is no paragon when it comes to putting up signs outside newsagents telling what is in a newspaper. It is classed as a must in newspaper sales.

We have shops which are only a few feet away from the signs telling people what is on the menu, where bed and breakfast can be obtained, even a dentist is advertising its premises.

I have no qualms with any of this. I think large areas of Alnwick Market Place should be turned into permanent cafes, like many such squares abroad, but I know the standard answer – what about the weather?

When it rains abroad, up go the covers and on go the heaters, as the customers happily continue eating or drinking while keeping warm and dry.

But I digress. Why do I think the ‘planning police’ are taking a different attitude to towns than country? It is this. Not one of the above examples in the towns has been asked to remove their goods or signs.

Yet in the countryside, if you erect just the smallest of signs to try and get people to turn off and come up a country lane to your business, the authorities come down on you like a tonne of bricks.

The first warning is usually a letter pointing out the need for planning permission, then another saying any signs will be taken down because they could be a traffic hazard.

I know planning permission is required for such road signage, but the crazy thing is they will let you put up a brown tourist sign costing hundreds of pounds but not one of your own.

Surely a tourist sign is also designed to slow down traffic, so people follow it as well as any other homemade sign.

Rural businesses are by their very nature small and need all the help they can get.

The planners need to think more about rural areas and the necessity to promote, not hinder, business.

AN interesting figure caught my attention this week (no, before you ask, it was not of the female variety) but that the great British public had donated £15million in seven days to the Horn of African Disaster Appeal.

Tell the Brits about a tragedy or a disaster unfolding and they dig deep into their pockets.

This is at a time when we are told that everyone is tightening their belts, everything seems to cost more and more and the trend seems to be forever upwards.

Yet many of us are digging into our pockets for good causes.

Just a few headlines from last week’s Gazette show how generous we are, both in doing and donating. For instance, ‘Jam Jar Army invades tourist accommodation’ in aid of the HospiceCare North Northumberland.

Mrs C has been through my pockets a number of times and sorted out the small change to help fill our contribution.

Other headlines included ’Blokes big boost’ that has raised £30,000 through pedal power for the Stoma Nurse Specialists caring for children with bowel and cancer disorders and the Wooden Spoon, the charity of the Rugby Football Union.

Another, ‘Sisters pedal for pounds’ to help Warkworth School and ‘Riding out to help the heroes’ which is self explanatory, then we have members of the Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service helping their own charity.

All good causes, but it is not the exception. Week after week we have people supporting good causes in one way or another.

In times like this, many a charity would fold if it was not for such people.

Take a bow all those mentioned and also those not mentioned who do so much week after week for good causes.

They deserve our thanks and our support.