The owners of an escape room in Lowestoft have said they were ‘devastated’ after being told to remove signs from outside their business.
East Suffolk Council ordered Prestige Escape Rooms, on High Street, to remove the signs which they labeled “crude” as well as “incongruous and alien”.
Francesca Dixon-Grant, who co-runs the venue with her husband Stephen, said: “We are absolutely devastated that we have been told to remove our signage.
“Clearly, they are vital to the success of our business and their removal is extremely detrimental to us.”
A spokesperson for East Suffolk Council said: “The signs were installed without planning permission and an application for the retention of the signs was submitted to the council in July 2021.
“The business is located within the protected area of the historic High Street and Scores, which is part of the North Lowestoft Conservation Area.
It is also part of the designated Heritage Action Zone.
“Planning policy for the Conservation Area states that any work should either preserve or enhance the character and appearance of the area,” the spokesperson added.
But Ms Dixon-Grant said the signage “in no way stands-out on the street in any negative way”.
“I believe [it] actually enhances the High Street, and therefore the Conservation Area, because it is showing that there are new businesses coming into the town and that there are new things for people to do and experience in their free time,” she added.
The escape rooms opened in May last year after moving from a different premises also on High Street.
In July, they received an email from the council saying there had been a complaint made about the signs. They were told to remove them or apply for planning permission.
In October, their application was refused. They made an appeal to the planning inspectorate, which was also refused.
East Suffolk Council then ordered the business to remove the signs by January 20.
The council spokesperson said that other types of signage were suggested to the owners, including separately applied letters which were used by previous occupants of the building.
Ms Dixon-Grant has set up a petition urging the council to reverse their decision.
So far, it has received 565 signatures.
Support for new businesses
Ms Dixon-Grant said the experience has made her question the council’s support for new businesses in Lowestoft.
“I do believe that there are no valuable resources for new business owners in this area to help them through the start-up process and that this is something that is vitally important as without new businesses and new ideas, our high street will just die, she said.
“If you take a look through the comments on our Facebook post about our sign removal, you will see a lot of disgruntled locals who point out many other issues that cause far more harm to the conservation area, like littering, dilapidated buildings and smashed windows .”
A spokesperson for East Suffolk Council said: “The council has been working to support local businesses in the Heritage Action Zone and understands the importance of advertising signage.
“Signage is permitted in the Conservation Area however it must be in line with existing planning policy and this has previously been explained to the business owners.
“If the owners would like to install new signage in keeping with the planning requirements, we would welcome their application for planning permission.”