A business leader has labelled a council “totalitarian” for threatening legal action against traders who put A-boards on pavements.
Stamford Town Team chairman Tim Lee, president of the town’s Chamber of Trade and Commerce, criticised the town council’s approach and in an e-mail to the town clerk said: “This is not North Korea.”
He was speaking out after the council wrote to a number of firms that had been spotted displaying advertising boards around the town centre. The letter said “numerous” complaints had been received about A-boards getting in the way of pedestrians and proving hazardous to disabled and visually impaired people.
Town clerk Patricia Stuart-Mogg said the A-boards the council had spotted in an initial inspection would be removed 21 days from the date of the letter. The cost of the removal would then be recovered from the businesses in question.
The letter was sent after consultation with Lincolnshire County Council, the highways authority.
Speaking to the Mercury yesterday, Mr Lee called on the council to negotiate a compromise with traders.
“Why take this draconian way?” he said.
“Why not negotiate with traders and come to a compromise?
“It seems they want to dictate to them rather than work with us. They don’t really value the contribution the commercial town centre makes to the attractiveness of Stamford.”
He added: “It’s a totalitarian way to do things.”
Mr Lee is chairman of Stamford Town Team, which comprises councillors and business people, said he accepted that obstructing the highway was illegal. But he called on the council to take a measured approach. He cited the example of Bristol, where the city council has drawn up a code of conduct for retailers.
The code gives a series of rules governing the size, placement, colour and other aspects of A-boards and other freestanding advertising. If a business flouts the code the council removes the boards, at a cost to the business.
Mr Lee said: “We would love to get together and adopt a published code so the traders can stick by it. If they don’t, then they should be taken to task.”
Mrs Stuart-Mogg said the issue of A-boards had been raised many times and the letter had been sent out to make retailers aware of their liability.
She added: “If they are putting something in the High Street which is against the law then they must realise what their position is.”
The town clerk said she hoped enforcement action would not be necessary and retailers would co-operate.