THE boss of a cycle firm says council "bullies" have booted him out of business.

York Cycle Hire owner John Hopkinson claims a planning row has cost him his livelihood.

Trouble flared after he put up a banner and stood hire bikes on a grass verge to promote his Lendal Bridge firm. He claims that because his shop is under the bridge he needs more publicity to attract customers.

But his landlords, City of York Council, said he needed new permission - or had to get on his bike. Mr Hopkinson's shop, thriving in its second year with 50 bikes hired daily in summer, is due to close at the end of the month after compromise talks collapsed. Three jobs will be axed.

Father-of-three Mr Hopkinson, 39, said: "I'm incensed about the way I've been treated.

"I've explained to them I can't trade under the bridge without having a few bikes outside. But they are being totally inflexible."

The cycle boss had up to 25 bikes outside his sale and hire shop, opposite the former York Waterworks building. However, as part of a compromise he offered to site five there - but the council said no.

"It's very difficult to paint anything positive about the council," said Mr Hopkinson, who has planning permission for the business, but is unlikely to get it for outside developments.

"At one stage I put chalk on the pavement pointing an arrow to the shop. So the council sent an official saying it was a safety hazard.

"Nobody has complained about the bikes or banner, yet the council gave me one month's notice to get out. Rent is too high to go elsewhere."

Mr Hopkinson, who lives with his partner in Fulford, will have a closing down sale before he quits. He believes his business will be a loss to York.

"Lots of my customers rent bikes, leave their cars at guest houses and cycle into the city.

"Surely this is something the council should be supporting, rather than displaying a bullying manner at times?"

A City of York Council spokeswoman said: "Mr Hopkinson expanded his cycle business to adjoining council land, without permission. He needs to apply for permission to display cycles outside the vault, on the city walls embankment, and put up display signs. If successful, he will need to agree tenancy terms for additional land."

Updated: 11:04 Monday, October 20, 2003