A Bolton shopkeeper has been banned from displaying signs directing customers to his tiny independent model shop – after council officials claimed they were a ‘health and safety’ hazard.
Mike Jolly, 54, put the A-boards around his hometown in the hope of drumming up extra custom – but inspectors removed them saying they were ‘too directional’ and might cause pedestrians to injure themselves by walking into them.
The ban came after councillors in Bolton, Greater Manchester, allowed German discount supermarket chain Lidl to front four similar signs on a busy roundabout near Mr Jolly’s firm MJ Racing, Models and Hobbies in Westhoughton.
Mr Jolly, a retired draftsman, who is also health and safety trained after working in the construction and site sector said: “I would have thought the council would have shown more support for local businesses.
“Yet Lidl – a German company – has got all these signs and I’m not allowed one. One minute they are telling me stuff is dangerous and the next they say to Lidl it’s okay to put all those signs on a roundabout where all sorts of motorists could get distracted by them.
“They have loads around the roundabout. It’s like one rule for the small business and another for the big firms.
“It feels like they are using a sledge hammer to crack a nut. I got in touch with the council via email and asked if I could have a directional sign for my shop and asked how much it would be.
“They simply said that I didn’t qualify for one because I was a business. But who else other than a business would want them?”
Model enthusiast Mr Jolly opened his bespoke shop two years ago and put up the A-board on a grass verge outside a local community centre and put smaller signs on lampposts – similar in size to an AA sign – to help bring in trade.
But council officers removed the signs from the grass verge after a ‘complaint’ with an enforcement officer saying they were in a ‘dangerous place’.
Mr Jolly added: “A car would have to mount the pavement to get anywhere near it. The enforcement officer said a blind man could stray off the path and hit it.
“I asked him how often that happens and said even if it did, the sign would save the blind man’s life because it would stop him going into the road and getting knocked down.
“They were telling me even my simple sign on a lamppost – similar to one advertising a new housing estate – was dangerous. Yet the council have got them leading to the industrial sites. How is mine illegal and against the rules but their signs aren’t?
“The signs I put up were a great help and everyone could find us and they seemed to be working. When you open a new business you want people to know. It wasn’t only good for us but for the other shops too, we have a paper shop and a pharmacy.”
He added that his signs were not an eyesore and were only put out between the hours of 10am and 5-30pm during the shops opening times.
Mr Jolly, who also runs a community model club for local school children as well as sponsoring an Under 16 Rugby Boys Club said: “I feel like I am supporting the local community and doing my bit but the council don’t want to support me.
“You would have thought the council would want to support small businesses in some shape or form. This type of shop is a dying breed and when we opened two years ago eight independent model shops closed. This industry needs all the help it can get.”
Lidl’s application to retain four signs on the roundabout was approved by Bolton Council’s planning committee on May 15.
The supermarket signs are council owned and are available for businesses to use for an undisclosed fee, with council officials going through the planning process on the behalf of the business.
A council spokesman said Lidl’s signs were advertising, and Mr Jolly’s were ‘directional’ – something not allowed on lampposts.
The spokesman added: “We are happy to meet Mr Jolly to discuss promoting his business and the different options available such as roundabout signage.
“We understand his frustration, however, there is a national policy calling on councils to reduce the number of unnecessary street signs and other ‘street clutter’.
“The signs for Lidl on the roundabout are advertising signs. Unfortunately, we don’t allow directional signage to individual businesses on lampposts, similar to many other local authorities.
“We received a complaint about Mr Jolly’s sign, which is why it was removed. The signs for Lidl are permitted advertising signs on a roundabout that required planning permission before they could be erected.”
Story via Cavendish Press
Image via Facebook, with thanks