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A-Board Protest in Andover High Street

A-Board Protest in Andover High StreetA protest in Andover High Street was arranged for today (Friday 9th January), over the ongoing matter of A-boards in Andover Town Centre.

Inviting local traders to bring their Advertising Boards into the centre of town for a photo opportunity, to accompany an article in next week’s Andover Advertiser, UKIP County Cllr Hooke’s Facebook page promised that UKIP’s Parliamentary Candidate, MEP Diane James would be taking over the local matter and would be inviting TVBC to meet and discuss a way forward.

Andover & Villages spoke to Diane James, who attended the protest with her dog, Sky, who was sporting a UKIP promotional coat, Diane said, “It is the height of ridiculousness to take away the prime mechanism of small businesses’ ability to promote themselves. The affected businesses are not big. They are generally small independents, run by people trying to make a living by promoting themselves to passing, potential trade”.

Samantha Leach, owner of Beautiful You, a first-floor high street business said angrily, “As a first floor business in the High Street, I really rely on my A-boards to bring me customers.”

Henry Brett, Owner of Lucy’s Kitchen, told Andover & Villages, “The situation is awful and pathetic. I personally do not use an advertising board for my business, because I am on Bridge Street and don’t need one, but many businesses do. I would rather see Hampshire County Council fix pot holes and pavements. There are many items in the High Street, like concrete balls, tables, chairs, benches and other items; why not allow shops to advertise themselves with the use of boards?”

Maria Marshall, a member of the public in Andover, approached Andover & Villages in the High Street to say how angry she is that shop owners are being made to remove their advertising boards, she said, “This is awful; it is just a government ploy to get money out of small businesses. It’s disgusting and the shops have my full support.”

Andover & Villages spoke to leader of Test Valley Borough Council, Cllr Ian Carr, who confirmed he had not yet received an invitation to meet from Diane James. He said, “TVBC is looking into taking the A-board matter over from Hampshire County Council, and I am expecting a completed report on it in the next couple of weeks, when a decision will be made as to the viability of taking the issue over.”

“TVBC is working on a number of projects to support businesses in Andover town centre that will promote them and their location.”

Councillor Sean Woodward, Executive Member for Economy, Transport & Environment heads up the department that deals with the matter of advertising boards on the public highway. As explained previously on Andover & Villages, the council operates a zero tolerance policy on advertising boards. Cllr Woodward told Andover & Villages last year that over half a dozen complaints were received from the public, and a repeated number of complaints from one individual in particular were consistently received.

Cllr Woodward said, “Hampshire County Council do not have the time or resources to seek out towns that are using advertising boards, but when a complaint, or complaints, are received, the council does have to investigate and take action. Andover is not the only location that has seen action for Advertising Boards in Hampshire.”

The councillor went on to explain that 46 businesses in Andover were written to, and advised, to remove their advertising boards. 9 did so and 37 were sent formal notices giving them 28 days to comply before action would be taken. Enforcement officers are still collecting evidence against those who have not complied, and they may face fines and the removal of the sign(s) in question.

Cllr Woodward said, “I have spoken to Cllr Ian Carr about the possibility of TVBC taking over the matter of advertising boards from Hampshire County Council, but at this point there is no reprieve. Hampshire County Council have a zero tolerance policy on the matter of advertising boards and we will continue on the process to remove them.”