Andover’s A-Boards have become pieces in a political game of chess.
As reported on Andover & Villages in August 2014, Andover town centre businesses were written to by Hampshire County Council and given 28 days to remove their advertising boards. Failure to comply would result in the removal of the boards, a charge to the business for the removal, a fine and potential prosecution.
Since August, the matter of A-Boards has been thrust into the limelight, featuring on the front page of the Andover Advertiser, the subject of coverage on Andover & Villages and discussed amongst worried shopkeepers on the internet and in the streets.
Last week a protest was arranged in the high street by local UKIP County Councillor, Tony Hooke, for a photo opportunity to raise awareness for the plight of Andover’s traders, which attracted some twenty shopkeepers. Attending the photo call was UKIP Parliamentary Candidate, Diane James, and her UKIP coated dog, Star.
Also attending the photo call on the side lines were Liberal Democrats Cllr Nigel Long and Cllr Barbara Long and also Conservative Cllr, Iris Andersen.
The responsibility for enforcing the 1980 Highways Act that covers the matter of advertising on the highway falls to the county council, in this case, Hampshire County Council, who are duty bound to investigate any complaints from the public. The issue was allegedly first raised back in 2011 by Cllr Nigel Long who was concerned that they caused an obstruction. Early in 2013 Cllr Tony Hooke allegedly presented a substantial photographic dossier of numerous adverts and ‘A’ boards displayed across the Town to TVBC. At least half a dozen complaints from other people were received in total, and one of the complainants, a resident from Suffolk Road, submitted several.
Hampshire County Council operate a council wide ‘no tolerance’ view on advertising on the highway. The only way the A-Boards can remain is if Test Valley Borough Council take over the responsibility of the A-Boards from Hampshire County Council. This would mean TVBC implementing a licensing scheme for the boards that they would need to administer and run at a cost.
A huge ball of confusion was thrown into the situation this week when Conservative Sir George Young MP issued a statement on the matter, with a line that stated there would be ‘pause for reflection’ before action was taken against traders.
The traders, press and public are confused as to where the situation lies with a flurry of reports, statements and blame-ridden Facebook posts bamboozling everyone with the matter.
Andover & Villages will be updating this article on a daily basis with updates from the county and borough councils.
On Wednesday 14th January 2014, the situation is as follows:
Hampshire County Council
Cllr Sean Woodward at Hampshire County Council has remained resolute and unwavering throughout the situation. His position has not changed.
Cllr Woodward says that direct action will not be taken on the exact date of 16th January 2015 to those not complying with the letter sent out to businesses. However, the process will continue to remove Andover’s A-Boards and businesses are advised to remove them.
There is a no tolerance view on A-Boards in any Hampshire location and once complaints are received, the council is duty bound to investigate and pursue those not complying with the 1980 Highways Act.
Cllr Woodward has said that he has issued information and figures to leader of Test Valley Borough Council, Cllr Ian Carr, for TVBC to take over the licensing of the A-Boards, but has not received a response from Cllr Carr at this point.
Test Valley Borough Council
Cllr Ian Carr, leader of Test Valley Borough Council, has been sent information by Cllr Sean Woodward including costings and what is involved in taking the matter over from Hampshire County Council. Cllr Carr is awaiting a full report on the viability of creating and implementing a scheme.
In Cllr Ian Carr’s statement, earlier this week, he wrote: This is a highways matter and is the responsibility of Hampshire County Council as the highway authority. The more that I have thought about this and considered the complications and issues, the more I have come to my first view – that such a scheme should be administered by the county council on a county-wide basis.
Andover & Villages spoke to Cllr Carr on Wednesday 14th January, who said there had been no change in the situation and at this point TVBC would not be implementing a licensing process for A-Boards in Andover.
Sir George Young MP
Sir George Young’s statement and more importantly the penultimate line says: There is an understanding that, once the current notices to remove the boards expires, there will be a pause for reflection before any action is taken.”
This refers to Cllr Sean Woodward stating that, when the 28th day of warning is up (Jan 16th), action will not be taken on that day and does not mean there will be any reflection on the course of action.
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