Christmas tree seller rages at ‘killjoys’ accusing him of endangering drivers

A Christmas tree seller is in a row with council 'killjoys' over his festive roadside signs after they deemed them 'unsafe'.

Rob Schroeder, 76, reckons county hall "bureaucrats" are hurting his business as he relies on the bright orange and green signs to direct customers to his farm near Maidstone, Kent. Rob has been putting up the signs every year for four decades, but now he's been told by Kent County Council's (KCC) highways department to take them all down or foot the bill to have them removed

KCC says it's all about safety as drivers need a clear view of the road ahead. But some local government officials have called the council "killjoys".

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Rob said: "It's hardly entering into the spirit of Christmas, is it? Just another nail in the coffin of the rural economy." He added, "I'll have to crunch the numbers, but I think it has adversely affected my business."

In November, Rob noticed his signs were being taken down after a neighbour spotted a man removing one in Kingswood. He later realised all the adverts he had put up were missing.

The businessman instructed his staff to put the signs back up. But he soon received a call from the council's highways department demanding their removal or face paying costs.

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

Rob, who has lived in the area all his life, says the business sells up to 5,000 trees every festive season. But he said many patrons rely on the signs to find the farm.

Borough councillor Gill Fort, who represents nearby Leeds, said: "KCC shouldn't be such killjoys because this is his living and the living for his employees."

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County councillor for the Maidstone south east division, Cllr Gary Cooke, said he would look into Rob's case. "Clearly, the signs should have the right permissions but the same signs have been going up for years and years and years," he said.

"This is the only time of year when Kingswood Christmas Trees can make its money and we are trying to promote the local economy. Common sense should prevail and we should show a little Christmas spirit."

Although he couldn't comment on the specifics of Rob's case, cabinet member for highways at KCC Cllr Neil Baker said: "I'll look into this. We should do everything we can to support local businesses but we have to ensure the safety of everybody on the highways.

"I will have a word with our highways people and see if a compromise can be found."

A KCC spokesperson 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."

* This article was crafted with the help of an AI tool, which speeds up Daily Star's editorial research. An editor reviewed this content before it was published. You can report any errors to [email protected]

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