Are advertising ‘A’ boards essential to the success of city centre businesses or a health and safety hazard that clutters up the streets of Chester?

This questions lies at the heart of a new consultation which has been launched by Cheshire West and Chester Council which is asking residents and businesses for their views.

The boards are a particular issue in the city centre due to the large number on display in the city’s many narrow, often cobbled streets.

And the existence of retail outlets on two levels – on the Rows and at street level – means that there is a larger number of retailers with ‘A’ boards competing for street level space than is the case in many towns and cities.

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Two options for the use of ‘A’ boards in the city centre are now open for public consultation.

The first option is to introduce a licensing regime. Businesses in a defined area would have to apply for a licence to display an ‘A’ board and a licence would be granted under the Highways Act 1980 following an assessment by a highways officer.

Advertising consent would also be required and this would be built in to a single application process.

Formal action would be taken against businesses who fail to comply with their licence conditions or who display an ‘A’ board without a licence.

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The second option is a zero tolerance approach, where no business would be allowed to display an ‘A’ board. Any boards put on display would be removed.

The council’s Cabinet member for community and environment, Cllr Mark Henesy, said: “Over the next few weeks we will be listening to everyone’s views and working with a range of groups to come up with a proposal that we feel acknowledges as many people’s interests as possible.

“We appreciate that businesses need to promote their services and bring in custom but we need to consider the safety of passing pedestrians.

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“’A’ boards may be one the most traditional and simplest marketing techniques on our streets but the sheer number of boards currently in use is spoiling the look of our historic city for residents and visitors.”

The consultation will run for 12 weeks until July 5 and there are a number of ways to express your views: Complete a paper questionnaire; Go online to www.cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk/chesteraboardsreview; Email: Aboards@cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk; Telephone: 01244 972887; write to Regulatory Services, Cheshire West and Chester Council, 4 Civic Way, Ellesmere Port, CH65 0BE.