Council shows zero tolerance for A boards in Chelmsford city centre

Chelmsford City Council has reminded businesses not to flout rules governing A boards on pavements – even while under the current restrictions governing pubs and restaurants.

Restaurant ACanteen in Chelmsford had reacted furiously to the decision from the city council to impose a £100 fine after the restaurant placed an A board outside the premises asking people to practise social distancing inside.

“Shame on you Chelmsford Council for not supporting businesses during this difficult time and only putting obstacles in our way,” a social media post by the restaurant said.

“£100 fine for having a board outside our restaurant when we are trying to earn a crust and save people’s jobs.”

The council has said that ACanteen had been reminded on other occasions that A boards are not permitted in city centres pedestrian areas due to being a hazard to the visually impaired, before the penalty was issued at the beginning of the  month.

However, the two parties are now in discussion to “resolve the situation”. The Fixed Penalty Notice is still standing.

“I am pleased to be working with @ChelmsCouncil to resolve the situation and find an alternative solution to promoting our business and social distancingand keeping everyone safe. Conversation is a good thing,” ACanteen later posted on social media.

Chelmsford Council cabinet member Cllr Rose Moore, speaking at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday (July 8), said: “Over the last few years Chelmsford City Council and many many others round the country have listened to concerns raised by residents who are partially sighted or who have mobility issues and have brought in restrictions on the displaying of such boards in busy shopping areas.

“This is to ensure that some of our more vulnerable can shop safely without fear of tripping over hazards.

“The city council has a policy of clearing pavements of advertising matters such as this.

“A boards are prohibited in the city centre to enable people with a visual disability or physical impairment to safely negotiate the city centre.

“And the blocking of a public footpath forcing pedestrians into a designated cycle path as was the case in the case is not something the council can support.”

She added: “The government has eased some planning and licensing restrictions to make it easier for some food and drink businesses to facilitate social distancing requirements while trading.

“However, the easing of these restrictions does not apply to A boards and does not allow the inappropriate blocking of a public highway or footpaths for obvious safety reasons.

“The council is very pleased to see that Acanteen has now stated on social media that they were pleased to be working with us to promote their business and social distance.”

A spokesman for Chelmsford Council said: “The Fixed Penalty Notice is still standing. We are working with the venue to recognise what other opportunities there may be to help local venues with promotional activity and have contacted ACanteen with suggestions.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter