OWNERS of a diner want their warning sign returned after drivers started reversing backwards down the A12 to get there.

The Empire Diner moved in to the former 8 Ball Diner site off the A12 at Rivenhall End five weeks ago, and had ‘services’ signs put up earlier this month to give drivers enough time to stop.

Contractors for Highways England took the signs down without warning last week, as they had not been agreed with the authority.

Hours later there was a five-car collision outside.

The cause of the accident is not known. There were no injuries and Essex Police was not called.

Mark Mascar, who owns the diner, said contractor Ameys explained they do not qualify for official ‘services’ signage as HGVs cannot park there.

He said: “We wanted to get a services sign reinstated, but had to get our own ones made up by another company which meet the specification.

“We spent £325 having two signs made, which we installed ourselves; we wanted them put up due to safety concerns.

“People were saying how professional they look, and it was good they had notification to turn in.

“All was going well and then on Thursday we saw contractors taking down the signs without speaking to us.

“About an hour after we saw someone reversing backwards into the diner, we said there was going to be an accident as people see it at the last minute.”

The diner has since been in contact with MP Priti Patel as more safety measures need to be put in place.

Mr Mascar said: “We couldn’t believe what we have seen here over the last few weeks, this is desperation.

“Apart from affecting business, we don’t want to get into a situation where people get killed and it’s a blackspot.

“Next week the A12 will be so much busier once the schools shut down for holidays.

“Our genuine fear is that if this is not resolved urgently we will be dealing with more near misses or even a fatality.”

Chair of the Witham Chamber of Commerce, Tina Townsend, said she wanted action to be taken as the diner has worked hard to get business going.

She said: “We have contacted the Highways Agency to put some pressure on this, it’s an accident waiting to happen and personally as a safety officer it fills me with horror.

“The diner has done everything they can to get the business up again.”

A spokesman for Highways England said: “Safety is our top priority.

“We are in touch with the owners of the Empire Diner about signage for their business.

“Unauthorised road signs can be a collision hazard, and also risk distracting drivers.

“For these reasons, it is against the law to put up unauthorised signs and we have had to remove the signs for the diner that were installed recently.

“We are always happy to provide guidance for businesses near the road network to help them understand what type of signage or other ways of highlighting their business may be appropriate.”

Highways England has agreed to have a meeting with Mr Mascar next week to find a solution.