INDEPENDENT businesses trying to catch the eye of the public with some quirky advertising have been told to get on their bikes by the local council.

Dark Matter Cafe and Crushed Chilli Gallery, in Durham, have both been told in the last week that they have to remove bikes from North Road, which they have been using to advertise their premises, which are nearby.

And Durham Police has also been approached about its pink bicycles, which the city's neighbourhood policing team had been using to remind cyclists to lock their machines in a bid to reduce thefts.

Durham County Council says it investigated the situation following a complaint about unauthorised advertising.

Dan Pye, who owns Crossgate cafe Dark Matter with his partner Lindsey Brown, described the decision as pedantic.

Mr Pye, who has had the comic-book themed bike since December 2013, said: "They said it's illegal but I think it's a grey area because it's a mode of transport which was parked legally and just happened to have some signage.

"I'm pretty annoyed by it. It looks better than an A-board and it was in the character of the city. I think people are annoyed because it was a bit quirky."

He added: "About two thirds of people say they find us because of the bike. It's difficult at the minute because we feel everyone is being dragged away from us."

Artist Janet Rogers, owner of Crushed Chilli Gallery, in South Street, created her stained glass bicycle five years ago to tie in with the Pearl Izumi cycle race which goes past her studio each year.

She said: "I'm a bit disappointed. It's been there for five years and I felt I always kept it nice. There aren't many other stained glass bikes and it did help to get people to walk around the corner.

"It does seem a shame."

Stuart Timmiss, Durham County Council’s head of planning and assets, said: “We received a complaint regarding unauthorised advertising on a number of bicycles in Durham City, and as a local planning authority we are duty bound to investigate.

“As a result we contacted the owners, notifying them that their adverts were illegal and requesting that they be removed.

“We understand the need to advertise businesses but this has to be balanced against the impact that such ad-hoc adverts have on our historic city and its UNESCO World Heritage Site, particularly when their cumulative impact is taken into consideration.

“We are always happy to talk to businesses about any opportunities that may exist and to provide advice on advertisement consent. Each case will be considered on its merits, with the context and location being important factors.”

Inspector Dave Coxon said: "Earlier this week the issue of the pink bikes was raised by the council’s enforcement officer following a complaint from the owner of other advertising bikes.

"We already had plans to remove the bikes as they were looking past their best and in need of refurbishment. We regularly look at new ways of getting our messages out and the bikes have fulfilled the main aim of helping us promote bike security.

"We will be using other methods whilst the bikes are refurbished and continue to work in partnership with the local authority to prevent crime and anti-social behaviour in delivering these messages.”