Christmas tree salesman in row with council ‘killjoys’ over ‘unsafe’ signs | UK News


Rob Schroeder, 76, has been told to take down his signs leading to his farm in Kent (Picture: SWNS)

For the past 40 years, Rob Schroeder has been growing and selling Christmas trees from his farm in Kent without bothering anyone – that is at least until this December when council ‘killjoys’ told him to remove his festive roadside signs.

The 76-year-old claims the Kent County Council’s ‘bureaucrats’ are damaging his business in Gravelly Bottom Road, Kingswood.

He says he needs the prominent orange and green boards to guide customers to his remote farm.

This is how Mr Schroeder has been advertising the Christmas trees to residents for years without butting heads with the local authority.

Mr Schroeder thinks Kent County Council should do more to support small businesses like his (Picture: SWNS)

But KCC claim this is for safety reasons, as drivers need an uninhibited view of the road ahead.

The businessman said: ‘It is hardly entering into the spirit of Christmas, is it? Just another nail in the coffin of the rural economy.

‘I’ll have to crunch the numbers, but I think it has adversely affected my business.’

The problems began back in November when a neighbour reported seeing a man taking down a sign in Kingswood.

He has been putting up the Kingswood Christmas Trees signs for decades (Picture: SWNS)

Mr Schroeder realised the rest of the temporary wooden structures had also been removed.

He instructed his staff to put them back up but received a call from the highways department to take the signs away or face paying hefty costs, he claims.

Mr Schroeder said: ‘I know that, strictly speaking, KCC was acting according to the rules but it seems strange this happens when there have never been problems in the past.

‘Bureaucrats have obviously sent out the instructions to take them all down.

‘But for the past 40 years, I have been growing and selling trees from my farm in Gravelly Bottom Road and KCC has taken a pretty relaxed attitude to the signs, especially since we remove them at the end of business at 4pm on Christmas Eve.

‘It’s never been a problem before and I have always appreciated that level of help I get as a small business with a tiny, fixed trading window.

‘And these are tough times. Our costs have been rising steadily, as they have for our customers.’

He says there are yearly visitors from London and further parts of Kent who make the journey to Kingswood Christmas Trees and rely on the signs to get them there.

Mr Schroeder, who has lived in the area all his life, says the business sells as many as 5,000 trees each Christmas.

Some councillors like Gill Fort, who represents nearby Leeds, defended him and stressed the importance for the signs.

‘KCC should not be such killjoys because this is his living and the living for his employees,’ she said.

Meanwhile, county councillor for the nearby Maidstone south east division, Gary Cooke, said he would take up Mr Schroeder’s case to see if the decision can be reversed.

He added: ‘Clearly, the signs should have the right permissions but the same signs have been going up for years and years and years.

‘Common sense should prevail and we should show a little Christmas spirit.’

A council spokesperson said did not comment specifically on the case, but said: ‘We ask for unauthorised signage which causes safety concerns for road users to be removed.

‘It’s important for people using our roads to have an uninhibited view.

‘Where we have to take action we make extensive efforts to contact the owner of the signage before this is removed.’

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