The age old battle of the A-boards could be coming to an end as the council prepares to trial a new licensing regime aimed at appeasing all sides.
Letters have been sent to city centre businesses informing them of changes concerning advertising boards, also known as A-boards, following a consultation.
Stores and restaurants have traditionally used them to encourage shoppers up on to the Rows or down alleyways but A-boards can cause an obstruction for the visually impaired, people with mobility issues, wheelchair users and parents or carers with pushchairs.
In the past, arguments have flared up between shopkeepers and the council when highways officers have cleared the A-boards off the streets.
Now, for an initial 12-month trial period from January 2018, the council will grant a licence on application for A-boards for businesses on the Rows or in narrow passageways that do not have a frontage on a main thoroughfare or other means of advertising their location, provided they comply with the licence conditions.
There will be a charge for this licence, which will include planning advertisement consent and highways consent.
No other A-boards will be allowed anywhere on the highway, including within a licensed ‘al fresco’ area.
During the same 12-month trial period, the council will support the development of a wall/building mounted board, approved by the council in partnership with the CH1 ChesterBID. This will be subject to strict criteria and available in limited locations.
In addition, placing tables and chairs in city centre streets, known as al fresco dining, will only be permitted under licence from January 2018. Again there is a charge. If alcohol is to be served in the al fresco area then the premises licence will need to be amended.
An information pack will be hand-delivered to businesses during an ‘impact event’ in January.
More details about both schemes is on the council website. Application forms will be available from December. Enforcement for breaches will begin from late January, 2018.
Jane Makin, senior CWaC manager, Chester Locality, wrote: “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, action was and is needed to strike a balance. Thank you for your support to maintain the beauty and accessibility of our historic city.”