The new signage for The Wharf along Station Road just off the North Bridge, was designed to attract attention. The two
‘tomato’ red signs that tower above the streetscape have certainly attracted a lot of public comment, with a mixed response from local residents.
Many comments have praised the tremendous improvements that the development has made to the economy of the town, bringing jobs, retail opportunities and visitors. ‘The Wharf will be properly signposted and turn an already bustling business development into an even busier sport,’ posted one resident on Facebook.
Others have criticised the impact of the sign on the approach to what is considered an historic town. ‘I’m all for signage, but sympathetic, please,’ said one post. Many observed that the signs resembled the entrance to an industrial park, rather than the approach to a conservation area.
The larger of the two signs, which both face the same road frontage, is nearly eight metres high, while the other sign is over six metre high. Because the signs exceed regulations for advertisement control, planning permission was necessary.
The application was discussed by the Oundle Town Council in May, which objected to the application, requesting a ‘proper overall design strategy for the whole site in relation to the signage’.
The committee was concerned that proper thought be given to rationalising the quantity of signage so that the area ‘was not disfigured by a plethora of ill matching signage or by signage that was out of keeping with the site’s location’.
In June, the application was reviewed by the planning authority at East Northamptonshire Council, which acknowledged the OTC’s objection, but declined to discuss it at a Planning Management Committee.
Planning Officer, Graham Wyatt wrote to ENC Chairman of the Planning Management Committee Cllr Philip Stearn, who represents Oundle, that he was ‘minded to recommend approval’. Cllr Stearn replied, ‘OK by me.’ The application was then approved.
The chairman of the Oundle Town Planning planning committee, David Chapple said: ‘The council is always disappointed when an observation on a planning application that it objects to is not followed by a refusal by the planning authority.’
Businesses located outside of conservation areas do not require planning permission to erect signs as long as their signs conform to planning guidance which prescribes limits to the size, height, illumination and quantity of the signs.
A sign that is erected in the forecourt of a business has ‘deemed permission’, as long as it is at ground level and does not exceed 4.6 square metres. Only one sign per frontage is allowed, and the signs must not be illuminated.
If a business wants to erect a sign that exceeds those limits, it must obtain ‘express consent’. The planning authority can then make its decision based on only two issues: public safety and the amenity. For instance, if the sign is to be displayed in an area with historic, architectural or cultural features, the planning authority should consider whether it is in scale and keeping with these features.
Mr Wyatt wrote that the signs are ‘considered acceptable and will not have a significant impact of the visual amenities in the area’, noting that there were no listed buildings in the area.
However, the evaluation omitted to note that across the street are three Grade II listed buildings, and that one of the proposed signs was to be erected overlooking the stone wall lining the embankment approach to the listed, historic North Bridge.
While the council acknowledges that the wharf development hosts many businesses and has made a significant contribution to the town, the planning committee must adhere to planning guidelines.
David Chapple said that the OTC had received complaints about the planning permission that was granted, and will discuss the issue at its next meeting and raise its concerns with ENC.