Calls are being made for the county council to change its policy on brown and white signs to help support tourism and other businesses.
The signs apply to businesses which offer services to passing trade and are not intended to serve predominantly pre-booked businesses, plus they are intended to act as a traffic-management medium, not just as an advertising opportunity.
Northumberland County Council’s current policy, based on Department for Transport legislation, does not allow signs in general for serviced accommodation, self-catering accommodation, pubs, restaurants, cafés or retail.
However, this appears to be out of step with other counties, particularly those with a focus on tourism.
Paul Nichol, a council officer, has written a report which suggests amending the policy.
He wrote: ‘Having become increasingly familiar with the subject over the last few years, I have noticed potentially significant differences in policy application between Northumberland and other destinations and have become concerned that we are now falling short in providing an important aspect of the visitor experience and should look to creating a situation where we can extend the scope of the current Northumberland approach.
‘In particular, other counties appear to be routinely signing public houses and serviced accommodation such as hotels and guesthouses and a quick check of their policies indicates an allowance for these subjects.’
His report concedes that ‘carefully managed steps must be taken to ensure that we are not creating conditions for unnecessary signs and signs clutter’ and also notes that the current fee in Northumberland is £350, while in Durham, for example, it is only £150.
Coun Steven Bridgett, ward member for Rothbury, has praised Mr Nichol for his comprehensive report and raised the issue with Coun Glen Sanderson, the relevant cabinet member.
“We don’t want Northumberland falling behind while other local authorities are leaping ahead in terms of supporting our businesses,” Coun Bridgett said.