Public sign up to back food store

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More than a thousand people have given their backing to a food shop battling a council order to take down its signs and repaint its doors.

Real Foods in Broughton Street, which has been trading for 37 years, has been served with an enforcement order by the city council after putting up new signs and lights, and painting its doors bright green. It has also been told to take down a sign stating its opening times.

The building is A-Listed, in the New Town Conservation Area and World Heritage Site, and the council says the signs contravene planning rules.

But shop owners have vowed to appeal and say the signs are vital to attract shoppers and enable them to compete with chain stores. They have launched an online petition, which has been signed by 1170 people.

The shop’s PR and events manager, Ben Raffles, said he could not comment on the details of the row while the legal procedures continued, but said he was delighted by the support shown by customers.

He said: “It’s been overwhelming to the point that I feel quite emotional about it because we feel very passionate about our business.

“We’ve been doing the same thing for 37 years and whilst we’re very well supported by the community, it’s incredible the level of support we’ve had. We’ve been running this petition for almost four weeks and that’s an incredible success.

“We’ve had a huge amount of letters pouring in to us too and a lot of our customers have taken it on themselves to contact their local MPs and councillors as well, which is great.”

On its campaign site, the shop, which focuses on organic, health and wholefoods, says: “Without conventional, large shop windows Real Foods has to use other means to attract customers into its shop.

“We believe that Real Foods is an important part of the local community and has a lot to offer. In the increasingly bleak economic landscape small, independent, local shops are constantly under threat.

“Removing all our signs can only increase that threat to Real Foods, its 50 local employees and its many local suppliers, some of which are charities providing meaningful employment to people with special needs.”

But the council said illuminated advertisements on businesses were not allowed in conservation areas without consent. Officers said the main sign obscured important features of the listed building, called the notice above the door “an unsympathetic and incongruous addition”, and described the colour of the repainted doors as “garish”.

A council spokeswoman said: “The works that Real Foods have carried out are unauthorised. We have served statutory notices as the works have a significant and detrimental impact on the character of the listed building and the amenity of the surrounding area.

“The council has to balance the needs of businesses promoting their services and protecting the built environment, and we help local shops achieve this by publishing guidance on appropriate signage.”