New signs of a positive approach from county

UNDER-fire council officers have been told to take a more sympathetic approach to roadside advertising following a furore involving rural businesses.

The Country Barn Farm shop in Widdrington was among those threatened with enforcement action by Northumberland County Council over signs it had erected to promote the business.

However, public outcry led council Chief Executive Steve Stewart to launch an internal review six weeks ago, with an immediate halt on any further action being taken.

And at the authority’s North Area Committee on Monday, councillors were told that a new strategy was being drafted, which would focus more on assisting local businesses and organisations with ‘positive guidance’ rather than ‘prescriptive control’.

Area Development Manager Peter Rutherford said it would be written in plain English to make sure it was clear what would be permitted and what would not.

He added: “I think, looking forward, we have to take a positive approach rather than a purely prescriptive one in negotiating with businesses and giving clearly-written advice in all cases.”

Coun David Towns said: “We’re talking about rural businesses which are really struggling.

“In Widdrington, the Country Barn is probably the biggest employer.

“The public perception of how the council handled this is not favourable.”