TRADERS SAY PLAN TO BAN A-BOARDS 'IS BEYOND BELIEF'
TRADERS have hit out at plans to ban advertising boards from Ongar High Street.
Essex County Council is looking at removing A-boards from streets following complaints from individuals, businesses and disability groups across the county.
But it will be left to Epping Forest District Council to make the final decision on whether the boards disappear.
Ian Goodman, landlord at the Cock Tavern, said: "I just think the whole idea is absolutely crazy.
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"The country is in the middle of a recession, everyone is struggling and all they are trying to do is make it harder for businesses to make a living.
"It is beyond belief."
A report to the county council's scrutiny committee acknowledged the worth of A-boards in supporting businesses.
However, it added: "The widespread encroachment of A-boards, retail/trade displays and street cafés onto public highways are considered by other people to be an unsightly nuisance, by the disabled to be a potential danger and by other traders as unfair, non-rated enlargements of a competitor's business."
The county council will make its decision next month.
Fay Davies, owner of Balloonatics, puts an A-board outside her High Street shop to promote special deals.
The 41-year-old said: "The A-board highlights special offers or occasions that the public might not necessarily see if they didn't have a reason to come into your shop.
"They are very important to us."
Should the ban come into place, local authorities will only be able to take action against A-boards placed on pavements that they own or maintain.
Colin Green, chairman of the Ongar Club for the Physically Handicapped, said he had had no complaints from members about A-boards in Ongar, but did express some concern.
"It depends on which part of the pavement shops put them," he said.
"In some places in Ongar you have got loads of room on the pavement, but in others, when you're in a wheelchair, the A-boards mess it up.
"There are some shops which cut the footpath right down with their boards."
As part of the county council's review into A-boards, questionnaires were sent to district councils across Essex.
Feedback received confirmed "divergent" views and the "difficulties of introducing a uniform approach countywide".
Councillor Anne Grigg, asset management and economic development portfolio holder for Epping Forest District Council, said: "We need to exercise common sense.
"A-boards are an important way in which independent shopkeepers advertise and I do not want to see anything harming the economic interests of our high streets.
"I also see the importance of keeping pavements free of obstructions.
"Clearly, A-boards or any other items placed on the pavement by shopkeepers have to be positioned so as not to be a danger to the public.
"It is not in the shopkeepers' interests to cause accidents.
"We will look at the detailed outcome of the county council debate but Epping Forest District Council has looked at these issues before and I think our instinct is to exercise a light touch wherever we can."