A Derry businessman has said he has lost trade due to customers not being able to find him as he is banned from erecting a sign directing people towards his premises.

Lloyd Cooke Motors is based Lismacarol Road in Drumahoe, where the business, which specialises in repairs and servicing, has been operating for 43 years and currently employs 23 people

However, the owner, Lloyd Cooke, has now claimed that he is losing business because he is not allowed to erect a sign at the junction of Lismacarol Road and Glenshane Road.

The issue arose at last week’s meeting of Derry City and City Strabane District Council’s Planning Committee, where Mr Cooke’s application came before local councillors.

At the meeting, a council planning officer said that the sign, if permitted, would be ‘detrimental to the visual amenity of the surrounding countryside’ due to its ‘inappropriate size, design and materials of the proposed advertisement’.

He added that in addition, the erection of the sign in the position proposed would ‘distract the attention of motorists and obscure visibility at the junction’ of Lismacarol Road with Glenshane Road, which is designated a ‘Protected Route’ and would create a ‘traffic hazard’.

The officer said that Transport NI was of the opinion that motorists would observe the sign late and this had the potential for the driver to ‘brake abruptly’ to try and make a right turn onto Lismacarol Road.

The meeting was told that as result, planners had recommended to refuse the application.

Mr Cooke was then given the opportunity to address the meeting and said that the sign was necessary to guarantee the future of the business and its employees.

Mr Cooke also suggested that the sign could be placed on top of an existing sign for the Lismacarol Road.

The DUP’s Drew Thompson said that the business was dealing with people from ‘all over the country’ who had been sent there by insurance companies, with Mr Cooke replying that he had recently lost a ‘major contract to Belfast’ due to the ongoing difficulties with signage.

“We need that sign,” he said, before adding that other businesses in the same area had been allowed to erect signs.

He added that they currently dealt with 40-50 cars a week, and hoped to boost that to 80, but that the signage was crucial to this happening and keep the work carried out by the body shop ‘local’.

The Sinn Fein councillor Patricia Logue said it was ‘very regrettable that it had come to this’ and suggested further engagement between the applicant and planners.

However, the planning officer replied that there had already been ‘exhaustive discussions’ and Transport NI had ‘serious concerns with the directional nature of the sign’.

Cllr Logue added that given the number of accidents on that stretch of the A6, any decision taken by the council should ‘endorse road safety’.

Head of Planning with council, Maura Fox, said that some of the existing signs referred to Mr Cooke were located within the boundaries of the land occupied by the businesses.

She added that the planners were ‘not road safety experts’, but had ‘taken the advice’ of Transport NI.

The application was then refused after a majority of councillors backed the planners’ recommendation.

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