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Want an A-board in Worcester? Pay us £100
RETAILERS in Worcester could be slapped with a £100 charge for having A-boards outside their premises in a fresh crackdown on High Street clutter.
The suggestion, from city politicians, comes after complaints from blind people that they are causing problems.
Until now traders have been allowed to have A-boards for free, leading to more and more of them appearing on Worcester’s streets.
Neither the city council or Worcestershire County Council have figures on how many exist, despite concerns over proliferation and the fact many shops place them some distance from properties.
An-in house review of the city centre is being led by Labour Councillor Simon Cronin, and discussions have been held with officers about ‘taxing’ them £100.
The idea, if implemented, would provide a fund towards better scrutiny of how many A-boards are in the city, and where they are situated.
Coun Cronin said:”I had a meeting with David Sutton (the head of the council’s cleaner and greener department) and identified a few areas we want to pursue.
“There is an issue with A-boards in the city centre and we discussed a charge of £100 - if you’ve got 300 people paying £100 to have one of these A-boards that would provide enough money to help sort it out.”
The call has already divided politicians, some of whom say it would be the wrong time to levy a charge on struggling businesses.
Coun Simon Geraghty, Tory group leader, said: “I would hate to think this council could be adding extra costs and burdens onto traders which are already struggling.
We shouldn’t be imposing more costs on them, so I would actually urge caution over this.”
Coun David Tibbutt, a fellow Conservative, said: “There is an issue with businesses, but we can’t say ‘you must pay £100’ for a sign that you are perfectly entitled to have.”
Coun Roger Knight, a former environmental chief, said: “Before we get any headlines saying ‘council fills its coffers’ it’s worth pointing out any licence (a charge) would go towards the costs of providing a service.”
Coun Cronin’s review, which will include views from a cross-section of other politicians, will carry on into the autumn.
At the moment, many councils across the country do charge for A-boards by asking traders to fork out for permits.
The prices vary from £50 to around £150, with some local authorities having done it for over a decade.
RETAILERS’ GROUP SAY SHOPS ‘RELY ON A-BOARDS’
THE body representing city centre retailers says shops “rely on A-boards”, but has admitted it is supportive of tighter controls on them.
Adrian Field, from Worcester Business Improvement District (BID), told your Worcester News not enough enforcement has been taking place into the advertising frames.
He said rather than charging, the council could explore other ideas like limiting traders to just one, or insisting they are closer to the premises.
“There’s been no proper enforcement of them for many a year, and some businesses have more than one,” he said.
“It’s a difficult one as many traders do rely on A-boards, but at Worcester BID we have had complaints from visually impaired people.
“They play an important role in promoting businesses in the city and getting people through the doors, which is so important.
“I think there needs to be more understanding on both sides - there clearly is a need for them, but in moderation.
“At the moment there is no management and businesses realise that.
“I would suggest something is done on a trial basis, where they are limited to one per businesses, close to the shop and no more than one metre high, rather than a charge.
“They are important marketing tools, but we must get the balance right.”
Back in 2007 Worcestershire County Council, which is the highways authority, ordered them to be removed from the streets to make it easier for pedestrians.
But since the economic downturn it has been relaxed, resulting in a free-for-all in a bid to help keep shops viable.
That is still the case, although in the summer Councillor John Smith, the cabinet member for the highways at County Hall, issued a statement asking traders to “keep them as close as possible” to frontages.
Technically, it is illegal to place any A-boards in the High Street, and in other routes permission must be obtained from the county council.
The city council’s review will now consider that stance further, as well exploring the charging option in more detail.
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