A SINGLE complaint has prompted a crackdown on advertising boards in Andover that traders say is driving business away.

Traders in the town centre who have been told by the council to pack away their freestanding signs report losing up to a quarter of their business.

But Test Valley Borough Council bosses have confirmed the clampdown was prompted by just one complaint.

Jared Le Roux, of Heavenly Sweets, in Waterloo Court, was told to move his sign or “face the consequences” by two clipboardcarrying council officials. He said: “Business is down by about 25 per cent since the boards were removed. Buying sweets is often an impulse buy, so the boards are very useful.”

Matt Cooke, from Sonny Trims barber shop, next to the Heavenly Sweets, added: “Quite a few people don’t remember that we are here and on the last Saturday we had the boards, I know we had four customers come in who had seen them.”

Fellow trader Rob Harmer, of Naturally Health Foods, said: “My shop has two small signs at the High Street end of Shaw’s Walk directing potential customers to my premises.

“To my knowledge these signs have been there since the shops in Waterloo Court were constructed in 1990.

“We may be only 60 yards or so from the High Street but it is amazing how many people eventually find my shop not knowing we were even here.”

He said he wondered if someone in the town was conducting a one-person campaign against local shops.

Test Valley Borough Council has confirmed the action of its staff was a result of a complaint by just one person.

A spokesman said “Generally, the council will only proactively remove advertisements if they pose a threat to highway or public safety.

“However, the planning authority has a duty to respond to and investigate complaints received which report alleged breaches of planning control and potential infringements of advertising regulations.

“The council received one such complaint regarding signs displayed in and around Andover town centre.

“In line with the control of advertisements regulations, council staff have commenced their investigations into the complaint.

“If an advertisement has no consent, it is a criminal offence, which could in the most extreme circumstance lead to a conviction and fine.

“This is why we seek to help organisations to correct any potential breaches and advise that in the meantime the advert must be removed as it breaks the law.

“We would like to stress that this action is not an indication that the council is saying no to advertisements in its area, merely that we aim to help businesses display them in line with the regulations.

“Those who illegally display an advertisement are usually unaware that they have done so, therefore a balance has to be met.

“By working positively with individuals, council staff are striving to support local businesses, while at the same time helping to ensure that they are not in breach of the law.”