Babergh officers criticised over A-board policy in Lavenham


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Retailers in Lavenham have criticised “over zealous” council officers who threatened them with prosecution if they failed to remove temporary signs from pavements outside their premises.

Babergh District Council sent letters to traders warning them that they needed planning permission to place “A-board” signs near their shops.

It was followed up with an inspection that found four businesses were still displaying “unauthorised advertisements”.

According to Roy Whitworth, vice chairman of Lavenham Parish Council, the problem began with a complaint to Babergh.

He said: “An officer within the enforcement team acted in what appears to be a rather hasty manner and decided that the best way of dealing with the matter was to ban all ‘A’ boards from the village unless they have planning permission.

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“I accept that Babergh are within their rights to apply the letter of the law but it has to be remembered that Lavenham is one of the most successful small business retail environments within the district. The notions of tact, diplomacy, discretion and common sense seem to have escaped our district council officers and this has caused a huge amount of concern locally.

“It is hard enough making a living as a small retailer in a village environment and the fact that we are relatively successful should be something to be celebrated rather than trampled on by over-zealous officials.”

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After facing a similar problem in Sudbury last year, the town council worked with county and district councils to come up with a compromise to enable retailers to display one A-board in a size and location to be agreed with the towns’ community wardens.

A Babergh spokesman said the use of “A boards” could be a problem if there were “too many” of them placed in unsafe locations.

She added: “Having received a complaint from a local retailer about the growing and unlawful use of these boards in Lavenham, it was felt necessary to write to the businesses concerned asking them to remove the boards and seek appropriate consents. While A boards can be a problem for pedestrians, pushchair users and people with disabilities, we are mindful that it is necessary to strike a balance between allowing businesses to advertise, while at the same time protecting and enhancing the street environment.

“We are keen work with Lavenham Parish Council and would support the introduction of a protocol on the use of ‘A boards’ agreed by themselves, local retailers and Suffolk County Council.”

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