Campaign to save Portobello’s ‘Fat Bob’ from A-board ban

Billy Hoy of Findlay's butchers in Portobello with Bob the butcher''Fat Bob
Billy Hoy of Findlay's butchers in Portobello with Bob the butcher''Fat Bob
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FOR 30 years Fat Bob has stood outside Findlay’s in Portobello welcoming shoppers into the family butchers.

The popular 6ft fibreglass mannequin has become such a feature of the High Street, tourists stop to pose for selfies with him.

But now Bob, Findlay’s longest serving employee, has been told he faces the chop following a city council ban on all temporary on-street advertising.

“We just want to see a bit of common sense - he’s been here longer than any of the staff,” said Findlay’s owner Billy Hoy, 54.

The council ban was devised to help clear walkways and help the visually and mobility impaired get about without obstructions.

Given his name by passing schoolchildren years ago, Bob is under threat despite leaving more than 15ft of pavement for people to pass.

“There’s enough space. If it was a narrow pavement, I could understand it. We’ve got quite a few blind customers come in and they don’t bump into him,” said Mr Hoy.

Notified of the ban on A-boards and other temporary signs by the council, Mr Hoy is considering a petition to save his pal.

“It was quite shocking when we got the letter because he’s been here so long. I reckon we’ll start a local campaign to save him,” he said.

High Street resident Gerard Mcgrory, 62, said of Fat Bob: “He’s a local legend, a local hero.

“All the time there are people coming to see him - I’ve seen Japanese tourists coming to take photographs.”

Federation of Small Businesses development manager, Garry Clark, criticised council policy on A-boards and stood by Fat Bob for adding “character” to the high street.

“Council decision-making on this has been pretty scant regarding the real needs of business,” said Mr Clark, urging a rethink.

“Businesses use these as a type of advertising. It’s about drawing people in - they don’t do it lightly.”

Portobello Tory councillor Callum Laidlaw called for a review of the ban which while conceived in “good faith”, should be based on pavement width.

Cllr Laidlaw said he was happy to support a campaign to save Fat Bob and added: “I think A-boards have long been a way to attract customers for smaller businesses facing pressures both economic and retail trends over the past decade or so.”

While ridding narrow city centre streets of A-boards makes sense, a ban in suburbs with wider pavements could do “more damage than benefit,” added Cllr Laidlaw. “Fat Bob is a good example of a long-standing figure that shows one size doesn’t fit all,” he added.

Transport and Environment Convener, Councillor Lesley Macinnes, said the ban received cross-party support and offered help to businesses in coming up with alternative advertising.

“Reducing street clutter is essential to opening up our streets for all members of society, providing safe, welcoming walkways and removing obstructions,” she added.