BUSINESSES in Morpeth town centre are being urged to take action to stop their ‘street clutter’ causing a problem for many residents.
Members of the Northumberland (Low Vision) Action Group (NAG) are upset with the number of portable advertising signs, known as A-boards, getting in their way.
They have also set a challenge to councillors and officers at Northumberland County Council, where they can discover how difficult it can be to negotiate them with no or limited sight.
Morpeth resident Joyce Anderson is a symbol cane user and her husband John carried out his own investigation in the town centre. He counted 56 A-boards and one shop in Newgate Street had five of them outside its premises.
Mrs Anderson said: “I’ve got the bruises to show from bumping into these boards and I would like to know what happens if someone falls over one and breaks a leg? Who is responsible?
“They have been increasing in their numbers in the last year to 18 months. This street clutter makes the pavement very narrow and creates some dangerous spots.
“Fellow NAG members have said that other towns across the county have these problems. We would not like business owners to remove them entirely, but to have some consideration for others and not put A-boards in the middle of the pavement.
“They should be consistently positioned along the pavement to leave an unobstructed pathway for pedestrians.
“We are offering county councillors or someone from the relevant department the chance to wear simulation spectacles and experience what we have to put up with when walking in Morpeth town centre.”
Mr Anderson said that the problem also affects wheelchair users, those with pushchairs and elderly people.
“If the local authority has powers to enforce the number of A-boards a business can have and where they are placed, it should be regularly doing so to make sure they don’t get in the way of people,” he added.
The campaign has received support from the Northumberland County Blind Association, which is based in Low Stanners.
Chief Executive Lorraine Dryden said: “Our purpose is to support vision-impaired people so they can maintain their independence and to raise awareness of possible issues that may make daily life more difficult for someone with a vision impairment.
“Falling over an A-board can be both painful and confidence knocking, therefore in principle we support the removal of some A-boards from streets and pavements.”
The charity Guide Dogs has highlighted the issue at a national level. It says where possible, a gap of at least 1.5 metres should be left on the pavement for pedestrians to pass unobstructed.
Head of Campaigns David Cowdrey said: “Street clutter has blighted our pavements for too long and local authorities need to take action to clean up our streets immediately.
“We are calling on councils to introduce a licensing system for A-boards, allowing enforcement to reduce clutter and position them so they don’t obstruct pavements.”