Freeze on famous ice cream sign

Romeo and Deidre outside their ice cream parlour in Ballycastle where Planning Service are forcing them to take down their illuminated sign by start of February or face heafty fines of �2500 and �250 per day after a given date...PICTURE STEVEN MCAULEY/MCAULEY MULTIMEDIA
Romeo and Deidre outside their ice cream parlour in Ballycastle where Planning Service are forcing them to take down their illuminated sign by start of February or face heafty fines of �2500 and �250 per day after a given date...PICTURE STEVEN MCAULEY/MCAULEY MULTIMEDIA

The owners of a famous Italian ice cream chain say their distinctive sign is being frozen out of Ballycastle by planners.

Romeo Morelli says Planning Service is threatening to scoop a £2,500 fine from their takings if they do not take their new sign down.

However, the proprietor says they are not licked yet and are enjoining the help of local councillors to poke holes in what he feels are planners’ wafer-thin objections.

“We took the shop over in April and did not change a thing,” Romeo explained. “It was already an ice cream and coffee shop. We knew the signage needed changed so we waited until September and got a new illuminated sign up.

“But then in October we got a letter from Planning Service which said an illuminated sign was not permitted because it was a conservation area.

“We were not aware this was the case and were going to phone the planners. But an architect advised us that we were wasting our time. So I phoned the planners and said ‘we will not turn it on’.

“They asked how they could be sure, so I said I would get an electrician to disconnect it and I would give them my word.”

He asked if it would be possible to use only the down-lighters.

Then last week Mr Morelli got another letter saying the sign was still not permitted.

“This time we were told that the letters were too big, the materials were not appropriate and that it was not positioned properly. We were told to take it down and that if it was not down by 5th February they would fine us £2,500 and a further £250 for every day that it is still on display.”

The sign itself cost him some £3,000, he said,

“We are not very happy. If it has to come down it has to come down. But the same standards are not being applied to everyone.”

There is a nearby hotel which has an illuminated sign, he says, and another ice cream shop nearby which has letters on its sign which are “just as big as ours”.

A DOE spokesman said: “This issue was raised by a member of the public. The minister is aware of this issue. He has asked to meet with officials to discuss the matter.”