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Agitation Over A-Boards

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  • 16th August 2013

Dame Judy Dench says they’re a long-standing source of revenue for her old drama school. The East Cheshire Council says they’re an unnecessary eyesore. Others have their own opinions, and they’re not quiet about them.

A-Board Agitation

A-boards have been around for years. Yet in an age where everyone is hunched over their smartphones, and marketing gurus struggle to dream up new marketing ideas, the old, reliable A-board still provides inexpensive and effective advertising for small businesses. Even in East Cheshire, the argument isn’t over whether they should be banned altogether – no one is proposing that. Rather, the questions include how many each shop should use, and how long they should remain if their product – a sale for instance – is over. But a low-cost landscaping plan that would have dealt with this and other beautification issues has languished in the town council for years.

In Camden, the other side of the argument, as made by Dames Judy Dench and Jenny Abramsky, is that public sources of funding for Camden’s theatre and arts education have been cut, and that the hoardings are depended on to pick up the slack. Without it, they say, tens of thousands of students would be detrimentally impacted. And, it is also pointed out, as the government wants arts organizations to seek more private sources of funding, it seems especially frustrating to then have such an effective source be threatened with termination.

Staffordshire has not stopped at merely threatening to impose restrictions, they’ve actually instituted them. However, the outcome has been mixed. There have been as many businesses that refuse to stop using A-boards as there have been people loudly complaining about them.

The businesses claim they’re essential for bringing in customers. But drivers and pedestrians say they obstruct vision while driving, and create a maze that people must negotiate when simply trying to walk down a sidewalk. The Stoke-on-Trent City Council had tried to address these issues when it voted to restrict A-Board usage but, because it has been so uneven in administering the law, all that has resulted is that everyone is angry – and the A-boards are still there.

In Melton, while people have been complaining for years, Leicestershire Highways is still only looking into the issue. For them, business considerations include driving football, too. The Rutland Access Group is also just still looking into it for the towns of Oakham and Uppingham, even though people have complained that those with limited vision, pushchairs, or mobility scooters have a hard time with all those A-boards. The Essex County Council did pass a law restricting their use for Chelmsford but, as elsewhere, the A-boards are still there. Side street businesses in particular depend on them, so it looks like any restrictions various boards and councils finally impose elsewhere will wind up not being enforced either.

Thus, it looks as if things will stay the same, laws or no laws. So far, suggestions about banners and lamppost advertising have failed to solve the issues, and not everyone feels these solve the eyesore problem anyway. And, as Dame Judy Dench points out, a recession is not a great time to expect businesses to cut back on their advertising.

However, the problem may not simply be that a line has been marked in the sand, across which neither camp is willing to let the other pass. Perhaps the problem is that, though loud, their voices are few. If that many people were concerned one way or the other, the problem would probably have been solved a long time ago. Or perhaps the various boards and councils actually are representing the voice of the people they truly represent — the businesses – by not enforcing laws they did pass more strictly. So maybe it’s time for someone to propose a third option: incentives.

The economy is still in a nasty recession, and, people still want to enjoy walking down the sidewalk. If, instead of threatening businesses with fines for having A-boards, they were instead offered tax breaks to frugally use banners and lamppost ads, or something else altogether, and maintain just one A-board in front of their businesses, maybe this would reduce at least some of their number, and make the sidewalks just passable enough so everyone would be happy.

The point is that this is not an either/or situation. There is still room for creative thinking and negotiation. After all, this is about A-boards, not rocket science. So maybe the real issue isn’t the A-boards, but rather the human ego.

A-Board & Pavement Signs Policy by County Councils

Many county and city councils provide guidelines for the regulation of the A-boards to enhance the attractiveness and order of their communities.

Assigns has compiled a handy quick reference list of County Council’s A-Board policies. We will keep adding to this list as and when we uncover new published policies


Choosing the best Pavement Sign for your business

There are many ways of advertising a business, but if you like to get high quality results without going overboard in terms of budget, you can choose to use pavement signs. Pavement signs are commonly seen outside commercial establishments since they are an effective way to attract potential customers and to stay in touch with loyal ones. This way, you are able to maximize your business’ exposure with minimal effort and at lower costs


Danny Chard is the Managing Director of Assigns Point-of-Sale and Graphic Display Systems

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