A-board raid creates fury from traders
HIGHWAY chiefs got tough with Ely s independent traders on Tuesday – rounding up all their street advertising boards and driving off with them. Some shopkeepers only discovered their boards were missing when alerted by other traders that they had been loa
HIGHWAY chiefs got tough with Ely's independent traders on Tuesday - rounding up all their street advertising boards and driving off with them.
Some shopkeepers only discovered their boards were missing when alerted by other traders that they had been loaded into the back of an open-back truck.
Business owner, James Mackay, who runs Exquisite in Market Street, managed to run out of his shop and grab one of his two boards from the back of the lorry as it was leaving.
But he and other traders will have to fork out £20 per board to get their property back from Cambridgeshire County Council's highways department at Witchford where they are being stored.
Mr Mackay said: "I knew nothing about this until I saw a man in a yellow coat running off with my boards. These boards are a useful form of advertising, reminding shoppers that we are here. Without them, potentially businesses could close down.
"These boards are worth about £150 each and I managed to retrieve one of mine but it is badly scratched."
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Will Marston, who runs Lollipop Animation in High Street Passage, only discovered his advertising board had been grabbed when told by a fellow trader.
He claims the board is so vital to his business he may have to hire a worker to walk around town with an advertising sandwich board on his back to ensure customers can find his shop.
"I looked outside and the board had gone," he said. "Then I got a phone call from the highways department inviting me to go and collect it.
"I have had so many people coming into my shop saying they wouldn't have known it was here unless they had seen the A-board. I have also had support from people, including a wheelchair user, to say the A-board is not in anybody's way.
"I stand it against a black pillar and one man even said he no longer bumps into that pillar thanks to my A-board!
"My shop has only been here for four months and this could affect my business. I may have to hire someone to put the advertising board on his back to get round this. The tourist trade is going to be a big help for us and we need to let people know we are here."
Ely Traders Association chairman, Elaine Griffin-Singh, who runs Griffin Antiques in Forehill, said the matter will be discussed at the group's next meeting.
She said: "It would have been better for everyone if the county council had tried to find a compromise without taking this heavy-handed attitude.
"If you go to any city, town or village anywhere in the country you will see A-boards. What is good enough for one place should be good enough for all.
"The council should have let the traders know what is acceptable within the boundaries of their own individual businesses without imposing a blanket ban."
But Cambridgeshire County Council has defended the move saying it gave traders plenty of warning and is meeting a Government directive given to every local authority across the country.
Richard Preston, head of network management at the council, said: "Every year we receive phone calls from people who have tripped or walked into signs put out on footways illegally and the council has a duty to ensure footways are kept safe for pedestrians. Illegal signs are a safety issue as they create hazards and distract drivers and can cause confusion.
"We want to see businesses do well and urge anybody who wants to advertise to contact his or her local planning authority for advice about how to do this legally."
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Are A-boards a useful advertising tool and vital for the survival of small businesses or are they a hazard for pedestrians?
Write to: The Ely Standard (A-Board) 38 Market Street, Ely, Cambs, CB7 4LS or email the editor at: email@example.com