A barber shop forced to advertise itself as a chemist because of planning laws has now been told it is breaching medical laws.

Rob Anderson and Dave Banks, of Trafalgar Barbers, have become trapped in an increasingly bizarre web of red tape.

During renovations to the property in Trafalgar Street, Brighton, a 1930s fascia was uncovered with "J. Barker", "dispensing chemist" and "practical phrenologist" carved in ornate gold leaf writing.

They were then told by planning officers from the city council they must keep the old sign as it is protected by conservation laws - even though it advertised the wrong kind of business.

Then last week the barbers received a letter from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain saying it was illegal to advertise themselves as a "dispensing chemists" when they weren't.

The letter said it would take further action unless the sign, which contravened the Medicines Act 1968, was taken down. It added society representatives had been in contact with the council who had given permission for the sign to be taken down as long as it was replaced with a similar wood-carved sign with gold lettering.

Mr Anderson, 42, said this could cost up to £1,000 - money the new business did not have - and they had already spent £500 on their own sign with their own logo.

He said: "The council has made us break the law. It feels like we are in a nowin situation and it is all a bit bizarre.

"We never wanted the sign in the first place but were told we had no choice.

Now we are being told we have to take it down and pay for another one.

"We are told we have to preserve the cultural heritage of the area but all the other shops in the area have the signs they want above the door."

A spokeswoman for the council said: "We have been in discussion with the owner of the building over the restoration and alteration of this important and attractive historic shopfront.

"The fascia sign has been taken down by the owner for renovation prior to reinstatement.

"The council would wish to see the retention of this important architectural feature or its replacement with new lettering of the same materials and design advertising a new occupier's business."