Chamber to discuss A-boards issue with county action group

Morpeth Mayor Alison Byard pictured during her blindfold walk in Morpeth town centre.
Morpeth Mayor Alison Byard pictured during her blindfold walk in Morpeth town centre.

A Morpeth business group has announced that it is taking a proactive approach on the issue of A-boards.

Over the last few years, members of the Northumberland (Low Vision) Action Group (NAG) have raised concerns about the outdoor advertising items in the town centre.

They have said that a significant number of them have obstructed blind and partially sighted people, as well as those in wheelchairs and buggies.

Morpeth’s MP Ian Lavery and Mayor Alison Byard said they would support the group’s campaign after doing a blindfold challenge in the town centre and Northumberland County Council is looking into street furniture and the process of auditing A-boards across the county.

The matter was brought up at a meeting of the Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade last week and it was agreed that a working group of members should contact NAG to discuss potential solutions and ideas.

One of the group, John Beynon, said: “This approach is about being proactive and working together to make Morpeth a safer and more pleasant shopping experience for blind and partially sighted people, whilst also enabling local independent traders to effectively advertise their business.

“Ways forward could include suggesting that A-boards should only be put up against a wall or at the shop front and illuminating signs, where possible, to help make them more visible to partially sighted people.

“Any ideas outside the box will also be considered.”

At the same meeting, chamber members welcomed an announcement by Chancellor George Osborne in the budget earlier this month that the Government would be permanently extending its business rate relief scheme.

He said that as a result, half of all non-residential properties will see their business rates either fall or disappear.

Mr Beynon said: “This was very good news as it will help to offset the impact of the national living wage (which comes into effect today).

“As the wage bill is one of the largest overheads for small businesses, we raised our concerns about it to the North East Chamber of Commerce and local MPs among others.”