Should Croydon Council ban advertising boards?
BOARDS advertising everything from shop sales to lunchtime buffets are a common sight in Croydon town centre, but this might not be the case for much longer. Liam Curran and Rachel Bayne find out why the council is keen to limit the number of sandwich boards – and discover what some of you think of the plan
PLANS put forward by Croydon Council would mean a ban on handheld placards and place a limit on the number of advertising boards in the town centre.
There are presently about 145 A-boards lining the streets on weekdays, with more at weekends.
The council has written to shopkeepers, saying the advertisement boards are "having a detrimental impact on both the health and safety of people using the town centre and on the visual amenity of the area".
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Under the proposals, businesses will be forced to pay £335 for each A-board outside their premises and apply for a licence for five years. The council also plans to limit the height and width of the A-boards, and restrict each business to just one board outside their premises.
The council will decide whether to go ahead with the plans in February, once the current public consultation exercise is completed.
The initial area affected by the proposals includes North End, George Street, Church Street and part of High Street, including the junction with St George's Walk, which has more than 30 advertising boards.
Shopkeepers here claim they are of vital importance in attracting more customers to their stores.
Antonio Zaidi, from Mamma Mia restaurant, told the Advertiser: "The reason shop owners put the boards outside is because we're not doing well.
"We put them outside to bring customers in. The council should see the boards and help us out - not try to get rid of them.
"My business is doing very, very badly. The council killed my business. I ask what about London – why is it OK to have signs in central London and not here?"
Rahima Abdalla, the manager of a hardware and convenience store, added: "St George's Walk is so quiet. It's dead. The only way people can know that we are here is because of the signs.
"The council promises they will do something about it, but they don't. We expect them to help us so we can pay our rent.
"I have been here three months and I am already thinking of leaving. I work from 7am until 7pm, but even at this busy time of year no one comes here."
Joseph Assade, manager of Beauty Queen in Station Road, agrees the boards are a useful way of bringing more business to smaller shops.
He said: "A little business like us has to do everything to survive. This is the worst Christmas I've seen in the 15 years I've been here."
Kevin Nelson, assistant manager of Richard's newsagents in North End, thinks it is just another way for the council to punish small shops to the advantage of the major supermarkets.
He said: "If they can get some money they will try to screw us."
However, not everyone is against the council's clampdown on A-boards.
Shopper Jim Smith, 64, from South Croydon, said: "I think there are just too many A-boards and they get in the way."
Bryan Thompson, 70, from Broad Green, added: "I don't agree with shops taking over the pavement and putting their produce where people walk.
"It means people have to walk around bus stops and into the road because these shops are encroaching on the footpath.
"It's a safety hazard."
Croydon Council says its war on A-boards is designed to make the town centre look 'more presentable'.
Councillor Simon Hoar, cabinet member for community safety, said: "We just want to de-clutter the town centre a bit.
"On an average day, there are a 160 A-boards in the town centre, with the number rising on the weekend.
"The plan is to tidy up the town centre and make it look a bit more presentable.
"We’re not banning them outright, and the proposals are only for those shops in the zone itself. Shops will be still allowed one A-board each to advertise."
Cllr Hoar explained that newsagents wanting more than one A-board would have to put an advertising notice on either side of one board.
He said the proposals are currently up for consultation and added that 'all of the businesses have been contacted directly'.
Cllr Hoar said: "The idea is to tidy it up and hopefully, if the town centre looked more presentable, then more shoppers will be attracted to come to Croydon."
He added: "While we want to let the town’s businesses continue to promote themselves, we need to ensure that’s done in a sensible way.
"Right now the spread of these boards is more like fly-posting, but by introducing these new rules we’ll be able to exercise much more control over the number, size and location of portable adverts."
Advertisement boards should be within 2m of the tram lines and there should be a minimum of 2m clear on the footpath. They should not exceed 1.15m x 0.8m.
A-boards should have a rigid base with no sharp edges or protruding parts.
The initial restricted area proposed covers George Street, Church Street, Tamworth Road, North End, the junction between North End and Crown Hill and the entrance to St George’s Walk.
Each business would be limited to one A-board each within the restricted area.