A Clampdown was launched this week on the use of advertising boards in Lowestoft town centre – amid claims that they pose a “horrendous hazard” and make the main shopping area look untidy.

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A new partnership has been set up that will see shops and traders reminded where they can place their “A-boards” to promote their businesses without causing an obstruction.

The move comes after a string complaints that boards were creating a “blockade” in part of the town centre by forcing pedestrians and wheelchair users to navigate their way around them.

This week, businesses along the whole of London Road North have been sent letters asking them to place promotional stands in line with other “street furniture” such as benches and trees.

It is also hoped that by having better-placed – or fewer – A-boards, more shoppers could be attracted into Lowestoft as they will not be put off by the clutter in the town’s main shopping area.

But shops who fail to follow the advice have been warned that Suffolk County Council has the power to remove ill-positioned advertising stands as a last resort – and charge them for taking them away.

The warning came as the Lowestoft Town Management Partnership (LTMP), the retail arm of the chamber of commerce took over some responsibility for managing A-boards from the county council.

Emma King, Lowestoft town manager, said the new partnership between LTMP and the council would “act as buffer” between shops and the authority by providing advice and keeping a close eye on the situation.

She said: “We have had so many complaints about this. The area from McDonalds to Lloyds was like a blockade at some points – which is not going to get many visitors coming to the area.

“The town centre management team has been in ongoing discussions with the council for a long time. It is something we are keen to work with and promote. We are like the middle man, if you like, between the council’s highways department and shops so we can act in the best interests of local businesses.”

She added: “We want our local businesses to achieve the maximum effect from their A-boards without them becoming an obstacle to people and making the town look untidy.”

Mrs King and a member of the county council’s highways department carried out an A-board survey last week and she was pleased to see that every shop seemed to be following the regulations.

She said: “They (the shops) were all brilliant last week. Everyone knows how important A-boards are to help businesses and we are trying to be flexible. I don’t want to see any businesses having their A-boards taken away.”

The clampdown also ties in with the aims of Lowestoft’s successful Portas town pilot bid – which seeks to make the town centre more attractive to shoppers – and the ongoing Lowestoft Vision Business Improvement Districts bid.

The new partnership was welcomed by Margaret Oldham, chairman of the charity DIAL and a member of the Waveney Disability Forum, who has worked on behalf of disabled people for more than 25 years.

She said: “If shops just stick to the rules and keep them in line with street furniture then everybody should be happy. They can be a horrendous hazard to visually impaired people who could fall over them. I welcome the drive to explain the usage of the boards. I’m not against them; they just need to be in the right place.”

Derek Oldham, eastern area highways manager for Suffolk County Council, said the new partnership with the LTMP was only the second of its kind in Suffolk, after Woodbridge. But as well as welcoming its launch, he reminded businesses they faced having their boards taken away if they kept breaching the regulations.

He said: “These A-boards are an important means of promoting local businesses and we don’t want to do anything precludes their use. But we have a duty to the public to make sure highways are not obstructed or are unsafe.

“In Lowestoft some boards have been shoulder to shoulder, blocking access to the road. We can remove them if necessary after we’ve given shops a notice of advice and we’ll also send them the cost of removing the board.”

● Anyone who thinks an A-board is incorrectly placed can call the chamber of commerce on 01502 502205.

As part of the Lowestoft Vision Business Improvement Districts bid, a series of open street meeting for businesses have been arranged on September 17 and 18 at 11am, 2pm and 5.30pm. Full details will be confirmed next week.

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