Shops and restaurants in Chester use advertising boards, also called A-Boards, to invite and direct customers to their shops. This effective form of advertising for business owners has until now, not been regulated, and it has reported that they obstructed public pavement users such as people with mobility issues, wheelchair users, visually impaired people, parents, and caregivers who use prams or pushchairs.
After a long standoff between Cheshire West and Chester Council and local business owners, the council is launching a regulatory licensing trial starting in January 2018. This follows a stakeholder consultation, ensuring that all players are pleased. In preparation for the anticipated launch of the trial of the policy, the council has sent notice letters to all affected Chester city centre businesses to inform them of the changes to expect on A-board advertising.
Definition of A-Boards
Typically A-shaped, an A-board is a wooden frame used by a business to promote its services to the public. The basic style has a hinge at the apex though other designs exist. For the purposes of this policy, even signage mounted on a heavy base will be referred to as an A-board.
The policy will apply to all the A-boards in Chester City centre. The streets that will be hard hit include the boundary of the A5268, St Martin’s Way, and Nicholas Street. Other streets are Pepper Street, Grosvenor Street, Vicars Lane, Union Street, St Little St John Street, and Oswald’s Way. Also affected are Lower Bridge Street and Brook Street, all the way up to its boundary with Francis Street, with the exception of private land.
Inside the Trial Policy
This policy will be tried for a period of 12 months from January 2018. The businesses on the Rows or those located in narrow lanes, alleyways, passages and do not have a frontage on any main thoroughfare will be granted a licence to use A-boards upon application. The application will involve payment of a fee that will include both Highways Consent and Planning Advertisement Consent. The council will not allow any other A-board anywhere on the highway, even within licensed ‘al fresco’ areas.
In addition, the council, in partnership with the CH1 CesterBID, will develop a wall or building-mounted board. However, this will be subject to stringent criteria and availability will be limited to a few locations only. This project will be concurrent with the 12-month A-board trial.
Also regulated by this policy will be the placing of chairs and tables in the city centre streets, called al fresco dining. This practice by most Chester restaurants will only be permitted under licence effective January 2018. If the business serves alcohol in the al fresco area, then the council will amend the business’ premises licence.
The policy stipulates the conditions under which an A-board will be displayed. These conditions give limitations on the size and number of A-boards and the construction and the positioning of the A-boards. Below is the list of the council rules on A-boards:
Positioning of A-Boards
- After placing your A-board, there must be a minimum unobstructed footway width measuring 1.8 metres from the A-board to the frontage of the building. However, streets whose footways measure less than 1.8 metres will not have an A-board displayed.
- Pedestrianised streets, including those streets where vehicular traffic is sometimes prohibited, must have a minimum width of 3.7 metres for access by pedestrians and emergency vehicles.
- A-boards will never be placed on any carriageway, with the exception in pedestrianised streets on which vehicular traffic is prohibited.
- A-boards must not be placed within 2.0 metres of any tactile paving on footways or within 2.5 metres of any tactile paving in pedestrianised areas. Tactile paving, a textured paving surface placed on footpaths, assists blind or visually impaired people by warning them of such dangers as the end of a footway.
- An A-board must always be placed only on approved positions, and that position must always be consistent.
- The A-boards must not be fixed onto bollards, lamp posts, highway trees, seats, or other street furniture by chains, rope, nails or any other means.
- All the A-boards must be portable and easy to carry about. They must not require any excavation to install or remove. This aims at preserving the fabric of the highway.
- The owners of a directional-shared A-board must obtain the consent of a business premise if they have to display the board in front that business premises.
- The council will permit only directional shared A-boards.
- There is no A-board that will be permitted on any part of the Rows.
- A-board will not be allowed near pedestrian crossings or bus stops.
Construction of A-Boards
- A-boards must be stable and not present any potential danger to highway users. In particular, the structure of the board must be of a sufficient weight or design. This would prevent it from being blown over by the wind. Swinging or rotating signs will not be permitted, neither will weighting by sandbags. The council policy cautions against displaying A-boards on a particularly windy weather.
- A-boards must be made of high-quality construction materials and must be maintained in safe conditions. For example, the A-boards must not have ant protruding elements that might cause pedestrians to trip or fall. They must also not have sharp edges or splinters that could cause injury or damage.
Size and Number of A-Boards
- Only shared (a minimum of two businesses per A-board) directional A-boards are permitted, and the number of licensed A-boards will be restricted to accommodate only two boards within 50 metres.
- A-boards should not be wider than 600mm and not higher than 1000mm above the ground level.
Other Important Licensing Conditions
- The holders of a licence must have and maintain a £2 million public liability insurance policy.
- The council shall be indemnified by the licensee against all proceedings, actions, claims, costs, or demands whatsoever against any injury or damage that arises from the positioning of the A-board.
- The A-board licence must always be available for inspection during opening hours at the relevant business entity.
- The A-board will not contain any written or visual material that could be viewed by other people as being homophobic, racist, insulting, or sexist.
- The A-board must only be displayed during the periods stated in the licence, and not when the business is closed.
- All A-board must have express consent under the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) (England) Regulations 2007 granted as part of the licence.
This development of a regulatory policy and the focus accorded the implantation shows how the council is serious about restoring order in Cheshire West and Chester. With the application process opening in December, enforcement for any breaches of this policy is set to begin from late January 2018. In an effort to involve all shop owners, the council will hand-deliver an information pack to businesses during the impact event ahead in January.
In her own words, Jane Makin, senior CWaC manager, wrote on the council’s website, “The council recognises that the use of A-boards and al fresco dining areas has continued largely unrestricted for some time and these new arrangements may not be welcomed by all. However, the action was and is needed to strike a balance. Thank you for your support to maintain the beauty and accessibility of our historic city.”