Charity in plea for advertising boards crackdown on streets

A-boards advertising assorted retail outlets on the High Street, Royal Mile
A-boards advertising assorted retail outlets on the High Street, Royal Mile
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THEY spread the word about anything from cut price meals to sharing a daily joke, but the burgeoning mass of advertising boards outside pubs and cafes are being branded street “clutter”.

And the proliferation of signs across the busy boulevards are being targeted by a sight loss charity and city heritage groups who say they have become a hazard.

Ian Brown, spokesperson for sight loss charity RNIB Scotland, said: “A third of blind and partially sighted people surveyed by RNIB said they had been injured by pavement obstacles when walking outside.

“Some felt so intimidated they ended up isolated in their homes. Advertising boards, bollards, bins, cars carelessly parked on pavements are just some of the hazards encountered.

“RNIB Scotland has a Street Charter which is calling on local authorities to review their policies in relation to the most common obstacles – and engage with blind and partially sighted residents. We know streets can’t always be free of clutter. But we can do more to make them accessible.”

The pavement boards are banned from the Royal Mile, Princes Street and Rose Street but it is claimed this is routinely flouted, and Terry Levinthal, director of the Cockburn Association, said they exacerbate congestion on already busy roads.

Edinburgh City Council said it is redrawing its rules on boards which it accepted can be hazardous.

Lesley Macinnes, transport and environment convener, said: “We’re looking at ways we can make Edinburgh’s streets as pleasant as possible.

“We know that boards can be hazardous to pedestrians, particularly those with mobility or sight issues or anyone pushing a pram.

“Therefore we are developing a strategy, specifically looking at boards and other temporary on-street advertising, which will be reported at the committee on May 17.

“Clearly businesses will always want to promote themselves and we’re keen to work with them while keeping 
foot-ways as accessible as possible.”

The Cockburn Association and Edinburgh World Heritage Trust have also called for more strict enforcement on street advertising boards amid concerns they are causing a direct hazard to pedestrians.

Mr Levinthal said: “The feeling that we get is that Edinburgh council prefers not to interfere with business and has a probusiness perspective and is reluctant to enforce regulations to manage the public space.

“That is the key issue, they are public spaces. They are not extensions of business activities.”

He continued: “I think just a ban on boards would be a good way forward.

“Not only do they take up space where there is congestion already but they are hazards for disabled people.”

Mr Levinthal said: “All of these come under a bigger banner of the commercialisation of public space for individual commercial benefit. But if the majority of the path is being taken over by an appropriated commercial actively then one has to question the overall proportionality of that.”