Sign of the times? Welwyn Garden City club threatened with legal action

Welwyn Garden City FC chairman Olly Croft and club secretary Karen Fisher by the sign which the coun

Welwyn Garden City FC chairman Olly Croft and club secretary Karen Fisher by the sign which the council has asked them to take down. - Credit: Archant

Members of grass roots football club are fuming after Welwyn Hatfield Council threatened them with legal action if they failed to take down their sign.

Welwyn Garden City Football Club is hidden behind trees off Herns Way and so a £600 sign was put on the large grass verge about a year ago.

The club also put five troughs at its entrance with the intention of creating a floral display, but was told to take them away too, chairman Olly Croft claimed.

The council first contacted the club in November saying a complaint had been made about an ‘unauthorised advertisement’.

A senior planning enforcement officer warned that if there were more complaints and steps to rectify the breach were not taken, the council would consider formal enforcement action and this could lead to a prosecution with a fine of up to £2,500 and a further £250 a day for every day the sign remains following a conviction.

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Karen Fisher, club secretary, said the club faces a bill of more than £815 plus VAT to have a licence drawn up and then another £890 for planning permission to be sought.

She told the WHT: “It’s ludicrous. I’m so angry about it.

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“We have no choice but to remove it.”

The club, which was given a 3D pitch thanks to section 106 money, was told to take the sign down by January 16, which it did.

Mr Croft said: “We’re trying to promote what they have given us for the community and they’re trying to hide us behind trees.

“We’re trying to stand out and they’re trying to charge us for it.

“Everything at the club is done on donations and sponsorships.

“It’s another way of clawing money out of the community.

“We’re not a multi-million pound enterprise.

“We want WGC to be proud of their football club.

“Without a sign, people aren’t going to be able to find us.

“We put these concrete flower beds there because there’s a bit of wasteland and we’re trying to create a nice entrance. They want all of them removed.”

A council spokesman said: “The club was asked to submit an application for the sign to gain relevant consent in November last year.

“We received one complaint by a member of the public.

“We encourage them to submit an application to try and gain relevant consent, or take the sign down.

“They require advertisement consent which costs £110.

“We asked them to remove the sign, or submit an application, by Monday 16 January.

“We haven’t told the club to remove the flower troughs. This is council land and we are investigating if there is a breach.”

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