BUSINESSES have said they have had to reduce staff hours because their trade has been hit by a roadside sign row.
Massive Attack Paintballing and Sharpley Golf Course were told to take down their advertising hoarding from the southbound carriageway of the A19 after planners and road chiefs said it was a potential distraction to motorists.
The Seaton attractions, which are both run by the Weighman family, say they have had to cut back on their workers’ shifts after seeing a fall in visitors and say it is down to difficulties people are facing because they cannot find the neighbouring sites.
They say visitor numbers are down by 15 per cent.
They have covered up the lorry trailer as they appeal against Sunderland City Council’s decision to turn down an application which would have allowed them to leave the advert in place after it was told it needed permission – despite being up for more than eight years.
It said the sign was against its policies, with the Highways Agency also raising objections to the plan because the signs posed a risk.
Simon Weightman, who runs the golf club with wife Carole, while their daughter Alice runs the paintballing park, says drivers are missing the turn- off to Seaham and face adding 10 miles on to their journey as they turn back at Murton and then to the Durham Road and back if they stick to the main route.
He said: “It was the benchmark people used and knew it was the next turn-off.
“We’ve had quite a lot of people sailing on to the next turn-off at Dalton Park and then having to come back along the A19 to the A690.
“People should have the opportunity to advertise.
“Small businesses have to make themselves known somehow.
“It was there for eight years, nobody has raised any query about it, nobody objected from the outset.”
He added while the golf course suffered a drop in visitors because of the recent cold weather, the paintballing site tends to continue to attract people as the snow adds another dimension to the games.
The Weightmans plan to appeal against the refusal and are also applying to put up brown signs on the routes to the businesses.
Councillor Harry Trueman, deputy leader of the council, said: “Applications for consent are made because there are rules to prevent Sunderland being overrun with adverts and these rules are applied to everybody.
“Nobody is against advertising and the city council strives to be as fair as possible.
“Yet it would not be fair to others in the city if individuals or organisations, operating outside of the rules, agreed by parliament, decide what, how and where they can advertise.”