'Gallery owner attacks council's 'unsupportive attitude' over sign'

'A Gallery owner has criticised the district council after she was told to remove a roadside sign...'

Henley Standard ~ 17th September 2010

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'A Gallery owner has criticised the district council after she was told to remove a roadside sign.

CJ Holding, who runs the Studio Gallery in Manor Farm, Peppard, says the sign is "harmless and unobtrusive" and is needed because her business cannot be seen from the road.

South Oxfordshire District Council has sent a letter warning of potential prosecution if the sign, which is viewed as "detrimental to road safety", is not moved from the roadside by Peppard Common.

Miss Holding, who has run the gallery for three years, said "It saddens me greatly that my local council would prefer to serve me notice of potential prosecution, rather than support me, all for the sake of a harmless and unobtrusive directional sign.

"Ironically, road safety was in fact my main consideration and the reason why I began to put a sign out in the first place. I am invisible to anybody driving by and I felt my separate directional sign served an important purpose. Passing trade is also important as I'm not in a visible high-street location but like the Herb Farm [in neighbouring Sonning Common] people seek me out."

Miss Holding says that putting out the sign was in response to her customers asking for one because they couldn't find the gallery.
She said: "Numerous clients needed a sign in the road and were forever telling me of how lost they'd been around the country lanes as a result of me not having one. Sat Navs send you to a wrong location and although numerically listed on the equally essential main entrance sign, they expected something more. Thus, with road safety in mind, I purposely designed my sign to be weighted so that even in a hurricane, there's no risk of it ever blowing into the road or being a hazard. The last thing I would ever wish for is for my sign to cause a road traffic accident."

Miss Holding has now taken down the sign but says she feels hard done by as she only put her sign out for the hours of business, from 10am to 4.30pm.

She said: "I'm told that there has apparently been one single complaint made about my sign, I had a lot more complaints when i didn't have my sign. I made the concientious effort to religiously bring in my very heavy sign every single day, without fail and was only putting it out for six-and-a-half hours a day.

"I care for my surroundings and the environment a lot more than the average person and the core of my business revolves around providing my clients with products and services that are environmentally sourced from sustainable resources at every possible opportunity."

In the past six months, Ms Holding has donated more than £5,000 to different charities including Help for Heroes, Babes in Arms Research Into Cot Death, and others and she is in the process of setting up her own charity.

Miss Holding added: "However, I do sincerely apologise to my Local Councillors, fellow Local Residents, my Landlord and passers-by, for any offense or detrimental effect I’ve caused by having my sign and I have since removed it to avoid my prosecution.

Angie Peterson, cabinet member for planning, said: "Supporting local businesses is a priority for the council, hence the reason for it granting permission for a permanent board advertising all of the farm's businesses at the entrance back in 2004.

"We also have a responsibility to protect the environment and given the long history of complaints about illegal advertising on the verge, asked for the sign to be removed."