THE writing could be off the wall for a South Tyneside company after a government inspector ordered it to remove signs from a historic borough building.
South Tyneside Council’s planning committee rejected an application by Browns Letting Agency for consent for advertising signs on the outside of its Wyvestow Lodge base in Sunderland Road, South Shields.
The company appealed against that decision to the Planning Inspectorate, but inspector Peter Eggleton has upheld the committee’s original decision after ruling that the signs are “entirely at odds” with the character of the Westoe conservation area.
However, a spokeswoman for Browns said the company, looking to let 18 flats at the site, would “not be giving up without a fight” and intended to pursue a further appeal process.
She said: “We have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds to restore this building, and people in Westoe Village have told us that we have done a lovely job.
“Before we did so, it was in a terrible state and had been vandalised.
“We need the signs because people don’t know that there are residential rooms in the building. They think it is still offices.
“We are a small business trying to survive in a tough economic climate, and we need more support from our local authority.
“We have kept the signs black and white to fit in with the art deco design of the building.
“We have bent over backwards to meet all the requirements asked of us.”
The signs include text advertising rooms for rent within the Victorian building, and the agency argues that they are required to “help the letting agency business survive”.
In his report, Mr Eggleton says: “I understand that the main part of the building is in residential use as a house of multiple occupation.
“It is an attractive and imposing building with many period features and architectural details of interest.
“The signs are entirely at odds with its character and its current location.
“The signs are not sensitive to their surroundings and detract from the character and appearance of the Westoe conservation area.
“It is suggested that the signs are required to advertise the rooms within the property and that it is imperative that they remain to help the letting agency business survive.
“I have seen no evidence to suggest that these signs are critical to the operation of the business.”
Wyvestow Lodge was used as a government building during the First World War.