Use of advertising boards policy in Calderdale to be reviewed

It’s back to the drawing board over advertising board policy for Calderdale Council.

By John Greenwood - Local Democracy Reporter
Friday, 26th November 2021, 4:00 pm
The use of advertising boards will be discussed by Calderdale Council's cabinet
The use of advertising boards will be discussed by Calderdale Council's cabinet

And Calderdale Council’s Cabinet has been asked to look at the issue of street obstructions more widely, while balancing the views of affected disabled people, communities more widely and businesses.

Cabinet had agreed to pilot a scheme restricting where advertising boards – A-boards – could be used in Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd streets rather than imposing an outright ban, arguing support needed to be given to businesses coming out of the pandemic.

But cross-party councillors called in the decision for scrutiny and the resulting meeting included contributions from people affected by use of advertising boards.

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One Hebden Bridge mother, whose statement was read out by campaigner Jill Eaton, said her daughter, who was legally classed as blind, was mentally as well as physically affected following a collision with a board when nearby adults, who may have been unaware she had a disability, laughed.

As a result, she confined herself to home unless her mother was there to guide her around a “proliferation” of A-boards around the town.

“As a parent it is my experience that the overuse of A-boards restricts my child’s freedom and opportunity to participate in her local community,” said the statement.

Ms Eaton told members of the council’s Adults, Health and Social Care Scrutiny Board that access was a right under the Equality Act 2010 and advocated a total ban. “It’s not OK to exclude disabled people,” she said.

Anne-Marie Cowan said if people were prevented from going somewhere – in her case Brighouse town centre – because of their creed, colour or sexuality it would not be tolerated, so why should it when the issue involved a disability?

“I’m now a prisoner in my own home unless someone takes me out,” she said.

Councillors accepted the issue was complicated and a decision would be a difficult one, with Cabinet members indicating a willingness to look at the policy again as per the scrutiny board’s eventual recommendation.

Coun Josh Fenton-Glynn (Lab, Calder), in whose ward the pilot scheme would have taken place, accepted Cabinet had “clearly got the balance wrong” and Coun Jane Scullion (Lab, Luddenden Foot) said bringing policy forward was good as there was no policy, but it was a compromise which “had suited nobody.”

Chair, Coun Howard Blagbrough (Con, Brighouse), who supported Coun Colin Hutchinson’s (Lab, Skircoat) call-in, said the board would be happy to play its part to shape better policy.

Coun Hutchinson, proposing this course of action, said: “A-boards as a means of advertising deliberately obstruct the highway so people are forced to actually look at them and see what’s on them.

“It causes particular problems if you can’t actually see the obstacle in the first place and you have to try and work out what it is, how big it is, how you can best get around it.

“A number of other boroughs have advocated zero tolerance policies – Bradford, Leeds, York city centre,” he said.

Coun Blagbrough felt the improvement districts throughout the borough could help shape policy and Coun Ann Kingstone (Lab, Skircoat), while favouring a blanket ban, wanted to know more about how this step had affected other areas.

The council’s Assistant Director for Strategic Infrastructure, Steven Lee, said Bradford had piloted its scheme in four different areas, with a large kickback from Saltaire in particular, while York’s policy applied within its city walls.

Coun Megan Swift (Lab, Town) said the decision had to be balanced, she appreciated the problems but was concerned businesses might just be thrown out of the way – policy had to be clear.

Coun Dot Foster (Lab, Sowerby Bridge) and Coun Tina Benton (Con, Brighouse) agreed the council should not be seen as “the enemy of business.”

Policy should encompass more than just A-boards but al fresco cafes and other street furniture, and it needed much more public consultation, said Coun Ashley Evans (Lib Dem, Warley).

Coun George Robinson (Con, Hipperholme and Lightcliffe) said consultation should be wider than interest groups and businesses.

Coun Danielle Durrans (Lab, Ovenden) said the council should be increasing access but acknowledged that cafés being allowed to put more tables and chairs outside through the pandemic had increased access to some of these for disabled people in some older buildings which were not accessible.

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