Edinburgh Council accused of 'double standards' as festivals given a-board exemption amid citywide ban

Council chiefs have been accused of “double standards” after agreeing that festival on-street advertising can remain in place despite extending a citywide a-board ban for another 12 months.

Friday, 6th December 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Friday, 6th December 2019, 9:32 am

Last November, Edinburgh City Council rolled out a citywide ban of advertising boards over equalities concerns, which has been widely praised by cross-party councillors and disability and pedestrian groups. But the authority has agreed that on-street advertising by Festival Fringe organisers can remain in place – amid fears that a ban “would revert the city back to tackling the significant quantum of unauthorised flyposting” and “would have a detrimental impact on the council’s resources”.

But a businessman and a disability group have blasted the plans to allow festival advertising during a time when streets are more congested, to be exempt – amid accusations there’s “one rule for the tourists and the luvvies and a different rule for our residents and businesses”.

Dennis Wilson from the Edinburgh Access Panel told the council’s transport and environment committee that there should be “no exemptions at all” for the summer festivals.

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Roddy Watson from Gifted in Stockbridge

He added: “The festival period means I stay out of the city – I don’t spend any money in the shops in the city because it’s a nightmare.

“I like going to concerts and I like going to shows but if people can’t let people know about their show without having an advertising board, the show isn’t worth going to.”

Roddy Watson from Gifted in Stockbridge has blasted the council’s attitude.

He said: “I find the whole thing annoying. We have got bus stops and bus shelters and parking furniture everywhere. There are roadworks at Comley Bank, there’s 22 signs on both sides of the roads and 16 of them are on the pavements. How is that any different than having an a-board? They are probably even more dangerous.

“In the Festival Fringe there’s thousands of people walking about and they can keep the a-boards. There’s tens of hundred of people in Stockbridge, but we are not allowed an a-board, which we put up a couple of times a month. It is double standards.”

But the council insists the festival exemptions being extended will include a host of improvements and restrictions.

Transport and environment convener, Cllr Lesley Macinnes, said: “Given the importance of the festival and the Fringe to Edinburgh’s cultural life and economy, we have to recognise that the city needs to respond to the demands of such a high-profile cultural event which contributes enormously to Edinburgh’s reputation on many fronts.

“The work that we have been doing on festival advertising is giving us increased control and opportunity to improve the environment for residents and visitors alike.”

Any further exemption beyond 2020 will require further approval from the transport and environment committee.

Conservative group leader, Cllr Iain Whyte, said: “We have said to local business ‘no a-boards’ and that’s a well-accepted policy now. Yet the council at certain times of the year and during the festival, allow others to put fairly large things around lampposts – which effectively become a-boards.

“It seems to me we need to make even more of the available pavement space and pedestrianised areas open for people to use and walk about on. We seem to be having one rule for the tourists and the luvvies and a different rule for our residents and businesses.”

Green Cllr Gavin Corbett said: “It was really positive to hear the feedback from RNIB and other groups about how welcome the a-board ban has been.

“The council needs to do more to reduce other forms of street clutter, by giving proper and secure arrangements for bins and bike locking, for example. There is work still to do on the arrangements for festival time, when the city is at its busiest at the same time as street advertising mushrooms.

“Although a-boards are still banned at festival time, a ban on all other forms of advertising runs the risk of fly-posting taking off again. So the big focus needs to be on getting stuff off pavements and onto vertical surfaces, like free walls or vacant shops but in a managed way.”

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