Call for total ban on advertising A-boards in towns

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An organisation has made a formal request to Northumberland County Council about an issue concerning blind and partially sighted people.

Following anecdotal evidence from members of the Northumberland (Low Vision) Action Group (NAG) about some of the A-boards in town centres and other obstacles getting in their way, NAG conducted a number of surveys.

And its recommendations to the authority include the consideration of a total ban on the use of these signs for business advertising purposes.

The surveys, which covered most of the county, took place between September 2013 and September 2014. They involved counting the number of obstructions – others include wheelie bins, cracked and uneven pavements, badly parked vehicles and pavement cafes.

Average numbers of A-boards for the following towns during the period of surveys are included in the report: Morpeth (68), Hexham (60), Ashington (60), Alnwick (59) and Blyth (42).

NAG says: “A-boards by their very nature prevent pedestrians from being able to move in a straight line along pavements. They present a trip hazard, especially to people who cannot see them and who use mobility aids.

“A number of local authorities have implemented a total ban on A-boards. Rather than reducing the trade of shops, there is evidence to suggest that this has in fact improved the footfall in the shopping areas by attracting more disabled people to these towns.

“To assist in drafting a suitable policy, the authority should pro-actively engage with, consult and invite feedback from blind and partially sighted pavement users in the county.”

The group has also written to and discussed the issue with businesses, county councillors and MP for Wansbeck Ian Lavery, who went on a blindfold walk through Morpeth last year.

Coun Susan Dungworth, policy board member for adult services and public health at Northumberland County Council, said: “The council has been reviewing practice in other areas and has taken advice from an independent specialist as part of on-going work on regeneration of town centres

“We are currently reviewing our policy on addressing pavement obstructions and street furniture and are in the process of auditing A-boards in our towns.

“Officers will be attending a NAG meeting on March 26 and after this, they will meet with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).”