Helping hand for rural South Norfolk pubs

Remote pubs and businesses in south Norfolk were given a boost yesterday with the launch of a scheme to improve signage to rural enterprises.

Officials at South Norfolk Council have written to other district and borough councils in the county urging them to sign up to a scheme to help struggling landlords and business owners.

A 'landmark' deal between the local authority and Norfolk County Council aims to reduce the cost and paperwork involved in applying for a 'brown sign.'

Currently, there is no set fee and business owners can pay hundreds of pounds for a small signpost off a main road to direct visitors and tourists to their premises. But under the South Norfolk scheme, landlords have the option of paying an up front �95 fee for a sign and planning application on private land, which officials say will be turned around quickly.

Keith Weeks, chairman of South Norfolk's rural pubs task group, said poor signage was the biggest complaint of landlords when the council surveyed more than 100 south Norfolk pubs a few years ago. He added that there were very few applications for tourist signs because business owners had previously only been given an estimated cost.

'Our pubs and businesses are hidden gems being hit hard in a recession which has shut so many across Norfolk. They appealed to us to give them a chance of survival by letting them better advertise their locations on main and other roads. We have delivered for them.'

'Our county colleagues faced a range of constraints beyond their control which we as a district council found that we were free of. So we worked together to come up with this solution which gives our pubs and businesses the support they need,' he said.

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Officials at South Norfolk Council said the scheme aimed to take advantage of this year's 'staycation' tourist season and would not cause extra clutter in the countryside as the colour, sizes and number of signs would be controlled by planning officers.

John Lainchbury, owner of the Ugly Bug Inn at Colton, near Wymondham, who submitted a petition last year calling for better signage for rural businesses, welcomed the move.

He said: 'South Norfolk Council has been very good up to a point and I think they have gone part of the way. We get a lot of tourism here and people are disgusted by Norfolk as the only county that does not support its pubs.'

'People are so annoyed when they get here. Signs are needed for the survival of rural pubs. We are lucky we are fairly well supported locally and doing alright, but it is very difficult.'

For more information, visit www.south-norfolk.gov.uk.