Cromer street safety clampdown shelved - for now

A bid to clamp down on street clutter in Cromer has been shelved after proving a flop.

But officials are set to try again with a tougher scheme that could drive all advertising boards off the streets of north Norfolk towns.

The cafe culture side of a permit scheme had been a success, but traders were flouting rules over A-boards resulting in a new wave of public complaints about the danger on town pavements.

The two-year trial scheme at Cromer was due to spread to other towns but was 'in abeyance' because of the problems encountered, said the council's licensing manager Chris Cawley.

It was brought in after discussions between the council, highways officials, and traders.

While shops and cafes on wide pavements were given permission to site goods racks, tables and chairs and the 'cafe culture' side of things had worked 'brilliantly', advertising boards had been put up without permits on narrower streets.

'It started happening before Christmas and has got worse. They are on virtually every street and we have been getting complaints,' said Mr Cawley.

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Many were also uninsured which 'makes it worse' and the council needed to act to stop the danger.

A review and wider consultation was planned, not just with traders but with pavement users including the blind and partially sighted, wheelchair and mobility scooter users and parent groups.

'There is no simple answer,' said Mr Cawley, who ruled out going around and taking away all the illegal boards. 'Rather than do that we are having a debate.'

He realised that traders needed to bring in trade, especially during the recession, but encouraged retailers to 'cross advertise' and signpost shoppers to other shops

While Cromer had some wider streets suitable for goods and tables, other towns such as Sheringham and North Walsham did not.

Cromer Chamber of Trade president Peter Stibbons said he was unaware of any major problems around town, or any feedback from the council highlighting concerns.

'Rather than a total ban we would welcome discussions that can find ways to support traders who feel they have need for extra signage,' he added.

His counterpart at Sheringham, Alex Herbert, said: 'A ban would be heavy-handed and Big Brother. I have only heard of one complaint in 10 years. People should be encouraged to position them responsibly and if community officers on patrol saw one that was dangerous they could ask for it to be moved.'

At North Walsham, traders' chairman Colin Page said a ban would be 'a sledgehammer to crack a nut' when it 'just needs a bit of common sense over where signs are positioned."

He added: "Times are quite hard for small and independent shopkeepers and anything that helps bring in extra trade is valuable. A total ban would be another blow for people already struggling to make a living. Empty shops are no good to anybody – including the council who wouldn't be getting any business rates."

Mr Cawley said preliminary discussions were under way with highway officials at Norfolk County Council and at Great Yarmouth where the scheme worked well.

Proposals will be brought back to the district council, says a report to its licensing committee which will be updated on the situation at its meeting on Monday.

The committee is also looking at the provision of taxi ranks because of pressure on spaces at Cromer and other towns.