Saturday, 28 August 2010

An approaching unintended consequence?

As part of a blizzard of populist (and in many cases welcome) announcements, the wonderful Eric Pickles has call on councils to cut down on street clutter:

"Our streets are losing their English character. We are being overrun by scruffy signs, bossy bollards, patchwork paving and railed-off roads - wasting taxpayers' money that could be better spent on fixing potholes or keeping council tax down. We need to 'cut the clutter'.

"Too many overly cautious town hall officials are citing safety regulations as the reason for cluttering up our streets with an obstacle course when the truth is very little is dictated by law. Common sense tells us uncluttered streets have a fresher, freer, authentic feel, which are safer and easier to maintain."

All very good and very welcome but please note this:

Ludlow traders who have been asked to remove pavement billboards today revealed they could launch a legal challenge to the move, claiming it could lead to their businesses closing.

Right. And Mr. Pickles’ well meaning announcement simply adds more to the Councils’ campaigns again harmless and innocent signing by traders. In Ludlow it seems to be a nice little earner. Here’s one trader (who runs a very nice little cook shop):

“They’ve sent letters to some businesses asking them to remove A-boards voluntarily, but then they will remove them, charge us £10 a day for storage and may destroy them after 28 days, so it’s voluntary, but with a gun to your head.”

We can expect council officers to use Eric’s good intentions (targeted at the proliferation of council installed signs) as a further justification for stopping the use of A-boards. And as ever there will be an anonymous ‘local resident’ to raise ‘concerns’ with the Council justifying their actions!

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