Swindon & Wiltshire Business News

Six years after purge, A boards ban is officially lifted

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A boards at the entrance to Hughenden Yard, whose traders were not affected by strict highways regulationsSix years after a purge on A boards left Marlborough traders fuming – and out of pocket – Wiltshire Council has officially relaxed its stance on street furniture.

And a leading councillor has admitted that “ Over-burdening local business with a bureaucratic unnecessary process is not the right thing to do.”

Marlborough Chamber of Commerce was forced to come to the rescue of independent shopkeepers in 2007, following a purge by Wiltshire Highways. 

The highways department wrote to 19 traders who had erected A boards in Marlborough High Street, citing health and safety concerns.

A boards owned by 13 traders, who had not heeded the council notice, were subsequently confiscated.

Shopkeepers – many of whom were based in Kingsbury Street and The Parade – reported an immediate drop in footfall of between 25 and 40 percent.

And there was confusion over what constituted 'the highway', with traders from Hughenden Yard escaping the purge because their A boards were on private land. 

Following negotiations with the highways department and the town council, the Chamber of Commerce arranged for the installation of two large planters with bike racks and finger posts to the retail enclaves. 

Now, the council has reviewed and relaxed its regulations across the county.

Wiltshire councillors and officers decided to avoid regulations with the condition that anything businesses place on the highway is done in a sensible manner without creating a risk for other users of pavements and footpaths.

John Thomson, cabinet member with responsibility for highways and transport, said: “Over-burdening local business with a bureaucratic unnecessary process is not the right thing to do, and we want to make it as easy as possible for local businesses to do well in Wiltshire.

“We do however expect businesses to act responsibly and ensure that everyone, including those with disabilities, is able to use the footpaths and pavements safely and without risk.”

The news was welcomed by Marlborough Chamber of Commerce. President Paul Shimell, who owns Specsavers in High Street and uses two A boards to promote his business, said: "It's good to see that common sense has finally prevailed, and that traders can promote their businesses in a safe manner."

Traders are being encouraged to speak to council highways officers who can give guidance, advice and practical help to businesses wishing to promote their business in this way. The council’s highways enforcement team can be reached on 01225 713356.