'Save our A Boards'

September 2009 ~ 'Traders call upon Council not to ban A Boards'
Henley Standard ~ September 2009

(Click here for article).

'TRADERS in Henley are calling on the town council not to ban advertising boards.

They claim the move could put shops out of business and have started a petition against it. More than 40 businesses, including restaurants, pubs, shops and art galleries, use the signs to attract customers.

But councillors have said they turn the streets into an “obstacle course” for disabled people and those with impaired vision. The council, which has the power to ban the signs and remove them, will decide at a meeting on Tuesday whether to impose an enforcement strategy on businesses.

Ironically, it is one of its own councillors who is leading the fight against the ban. Conservative Lorraine Hillier uses an A-board to promote her coffee house in Friday Street.

In an article in this week’s Standard, she says a ban would be “heavy handed” and have a “devastating effect” on businesses.

Cllr Hillier is supported by the majority of traders.

Lisa McLaughlin, owner of Jam For Tea in Friday Street, said having an advertising board was “absolutely vital” to her business.

She said: “Most of our customers say they have come in because of our A-board. If they are directional, like ours, I think they are acceptable.

“We have never had complaints about our A-board. In fact, we’ve had more complaints about the ‘No entry’ sign outside, which is nothing to do with us. I’ve heard more complaints about people banging their heads on hanging baskets.

“I thought the council was supposed to be supporting the town and small independent retailers. We absolutely rely on the signage and can’t afford the rent on the high street. I doubt we would survive if we didn’t have the A-board.”

Rafael Fernandez, owner of the Henley Tea Rooms in Thames Side, said: “If the council took the A-boards away it would be difficult for us because many people come in because of them.”

Sylvain Boge, assistant manager of Brasserie Gerard in Hart Street, said: “Our A-board is not a hazard because it does not stick out that much. It makes a big difference. People who do not know the town would not know we’re here otherwise. We use the board for special offers and set menus.

“We’ve not had any complaints. We had a sign that used to be on an eisel but it fell down in the wind so now we don’t use that.”

Martin Newman, of the Horizon Gallery in Hart Street, who is the Standard’s cartoonist, said: “Businesses need as many displays for the tourists as it can have.

“A-boards are what I call acceptable street furniture, like tables and chairs in the market place. If they are removed we would need to consider some other sign-posting.

“We have nice wide pavements with plenty of room. People with pushchairs don’t have a problem and blind people are used to negotiating obstacles. I think A-boards add character to the town and they are done tastefully.”

Edvin Pashaj, assistant manager at Café Rouge in Hart Street, said: “Our A-board does bring business because we put promotions on it. People won’t come in if they don’t see the sign. It is quite big but we have put it on the corner and I think it’s quite safe.”

Marc Tran, manager of Magoos in Hart Street, which has several boards, said: “One is to show people that we have a garden at the back. We use them to advertise cream teas, quiz nights and music nights.

“In this street there have been these signs for as long as I can remember. If people don’t see the sign, they will think we are shut.

“The council may as well take the chairs and tables away too if it has a problem with things on the pavement. How am I supposed to promote my business with nothing out there?”

James Peacock, manager of Joules on the corner of Duke Street and Market Place, said: “Every store we have has an A-board outside. They do attract people into our stores. It doesn’t seem like the council is supporting retailers.”

Ian Blandford, owner of Gabriel Machins butchers in Market Place, said: “We use our board to promote special offers, what’s in season and the best prices. We also use it as a public information board.

“We do not put it in the middle of the pavement, it is always to one side. We are not obstructing anyone. Some shops aren’t considerate about where they put their boards. The council needs to talk to those shops rather than having one rule for all. It should be sensible about it.”

Andy Bradley manager of Nicolas wine in Market Place, said: “If our sign is removed it is not going to affect business but if it is supposed to be in the way of people, the tables and chairs in the market place must be too. The tables are bigger than my A-board. If it was on a narrow pavement it would be a problem but it’s not, there’s lots of room.

“Some places pay £8,000 in rent to the council for tables and chairs. I bet we could keep our A-board if they got money from it.”

Pauline Beard, manager of the Piccolo restaurant in Bell Street, said: “We use our sign for special offers. Drivers stop at the lights outside and see it, so the sign gets people in. The pavement is wide enough, I can’t see that the signs are a hazard. You can get a double pushchair and wheelchairs past them.”

Andrew Elias, owner of Down to Earth in Bell Street, said: “I think removing our sign would damage trade but on this street it is not as bad because people walk both ways. I think the shops along Friday Street would be affected more.

“We have one because everyone else has one. I’m not convinced it makes a huge difference. I don’t think the town council is particularly helpful, though. Henley is a market town and it is quite traditional to have A-boards. If there was a charge for them the council wouldn’t remove them.”

Alan Woolgar, landlord of the Horse and Groom pub in New Street, said: “A-boards are a way for pubs to advertise. In the current climate removing them doesn’t make sense. It won’t help the pubs. There are better things for the council to spend its time on. A lot of businesses rely on A-boards.”

But not all traders were opposed to the council. Jos Dieguez, owner of the Villa Marina restaurant in Thames Side, said: “I’m neutral about the issue. We put our board next to the wall, away from people passing with pushchairs etc. I’m not keen on the ones that are put in the middle of the road. If the council says it is a problem for pedestrians then I agree.”

Barry Whittington, owner of Whittington Fine Art in Hart Street, said a ban on A-boards wouldn’t affect his trade. “People know where I am. I don’t think it is the A-boards that bring people in,” he said.

Neil Ainsworth, landlord of the Argyll pub in Market Place, said: “If the rule is put in, it has to be for everyone. I’m not going to fight to keep the A-board. I will let this run its course. If our board is deemed a problem by the authorities then we will just move it inside. We try to keep ours right against the wall as it is.”

The petition can be signed at Hot Gossip.'