'Ban on roadside sign could ruin my business, says pub landlord'

'A Pub Landlord is fighting to keep a roadside sign after a council official told him to remove it'

Henley Standard ~ 27th August 2010

(Click here for article)

'A PUB landlord is fighting to keep a roadside sign after a council official told him to remove it.

Chris Smith, of the Lamb at Satwell, says the board is vital for business as the pub is out of the way and cannot be seen from the road.

On Monday, an enforcement officer from South Oxfordshire District Council visited the pub and said the sign on the B481 must be taken down.

Mr Smith, who co-owns the pub with wife Emma and partner Nick Gross, said: "We are not viewable from the main road, which is why we went to the considerable expense of having a tasteful green sign made up to show potential passing trade where we are.

"Obviously owning a pub not on a major road means a simple sign is very important. I fail to see how one that obstructs nothing and is the same colour as the grass around it can cause offence.

"This sign has been in place for an extended period without any complaints — in fact, many passers-by have visited the pub and commented how glad they were to have come across us because of the sign. None of our neighbours has a problem with it because we have asked them."

Mr Smith, who took over the pub nearly 18 months ago after it was shut down by celebrity chef Antony Worrall Thompson, said: “We provide a very useful service to the local community, as well as paying a considerable amount in business rates to the district council each year, both of which could easily end if we become another unviable business.

“The Lamb has already had the misfortune to be closed for a period before we took over and that could quite easily happen again if we are not cut a little slack.”

Mr Smith predicted that without the sign the pub would lose up to 15 per cent in turnover, which would mean having to make two redundancies as well as closing on quiet days such as a Monday.

Mr Smith said that other businesses in the area use A-board advertising, including the Dog and Duck at Highmoor, The Butcher’s Arms and Bird in Hand, both in Sonning Common, and Ruchetta, the Red Lion and rhe Greyhound, all in Peppard. He added: “The Lamb has been here for 500 years. I bought it as a local resident to safeguard its future as a pub and restaurant for the people of the area. I have invested heavily in it but make a negligible profit as, despite being very popular, the pub is very small.

“Without wishing to sound dramatic, this sign could make or break our business. Without a sign, we would get no passing trade whatsoever and while we are very well known and popular locally, we are invisible to anyone driving by.”

A spokeswoman for the district council said: “Oxfordshire County Council’s highways department brought these illegal signs to our attention since they represent a highway hazard. We are now looking into the situation and have advised the owner the signs should be removed.

“Signs such as these need advertisement consent from us and permission from the county council. There are other more appropriate options for businesses in less obvious locations, such as official brown signs available from the county council.”

In September 2001, then landlords Brian and Jeanette Baker launched a petition against the district council after they were told to remove a roadside sign advertising the pub.

The Standard reported the couple saying the blackboard was vital for business.

The council told them the sign didn’t have planning permission and if they didn’t comply they would be liable to a £1,000 fine plus £40 for every day the sign remained.

But Mr Baker said: “There is no way that I will take the sign down. The council wants silence from the Lamb but they are going to hear us roar.”'