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Essex County Council plan to outlaw A-boards

By Essex Chronicle  |  Posted: June 11, 2012

OBSTACLE COURSE: Phil Lee illustrating A-board problems outside Chelmsford Market

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A BLIND man waves his stick from side to side as he struggles to negotiate the maze of advertising boards next to Chelmsford market.

Phil Lee, a member of the Essex Visibility Impairment Planning Group, helped advise Essex County Council's highways authority which is planning to ban the A-boards from shopping centres across the county.

Married dad-of-three Phil, 55, said: "I have not been here before and people who cannot see build up a route map in their minds.

"The problem is that A-boards are never put in the exact place twice and a woman friend I know fell right over the top of one."

The county council's scrutiny committee, encouraged by former highways chief Rodney Bass, last week pledged to outlaw A-boards after a host of complaints from individuals, businesses, and disability groups across the county.

But the authority wants to leave it to each local council like Chelmsford City to decide how to deal with their specific problems because of the "diversity" between seaside, rural and urban Essex, so not all A-boards will disappear.

Cllr Mike Mackrory from Springfield said: "I was shocked to see a blind person with a white stick in a state of confusion and fear in Cornhill near the market where there are dozens of the boards randomly placed like an obstacle course."

High Chelmer shopping centre boss Mick McDonagh, who says he is a "bitter enemy" of A-boards, is delighted.

"I allow no A-boards inside my centre but I cannot do anything about the public realm at the moment.

"A-boards are a real problem for many shoppers and people with disabilities, and cause an unattractive clutter.

"I have seen zero tolerance in Ireland and, believe me, it works to everyone's advantage."

He added: "I think Phil has shown why street clutter should be minimised. It is a symptom of bad management of the public realm."

Local authorities will only be able to take action against A-boards place on pavements that they own or maintain.

Parts of Chelmsford High Street, like outside Debenhams, are privately owned by the retailer and will be exempt.

But all of Cornhill is public land and boards could be banned.

The final decision lies with Essex County Council's new head of highways, Cllr Derrick Louis, who promised a decision by July.

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  • Barry_Spider  |  June 16 2012, 9:59AM

    I'm rather glad someone is tackling these traders who encroach of the public area. Hopefully I can ride my bike safely down Cornhill without worrying about pedestrians weaving in and out of these obstructions, shouting some intelligible nonsense as I narrowly miss them.

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  • blibfot  |  June 13 2012, 11:41PM

    No chalfred, I believe High Chelmer is private property so they can ban them if they wish. As Mick McDonagh is the manager of this site, I don't think it is unfair of him to describe it as "his centre" I'm sure he is not implying that his name is on the deeds.

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  • chalfred  |  June 12 2012, 8:45PM

    Mick McDonagh states that High Chelmer is 'my' centre. Funny that I thought it belonged to the people of Chelmsford and the 'people' should have the final say on the matter.

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  • Mackay Fabrics  |  June 12 2012, 7:48PM

    Damn spellchecker! Of course should be Ireland

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  • Mackay Fabrics  |  June 12 2012, 7:44PM

    Sorry just had to add this. Why was Phil in such a state of "confusion and fear" he was clearly attended by Cllr Mike Mackrory and Mick McDonagh, so was unlikely to come to any harm and as you can clearly see from the photo all th A boards are in a straight line down the centre hardly " a maze". Who cares what they have or do not have in Italy; this is Britain a Nation of Shopkeepers.

  • Mackay Fabrics  |  June 12 2012, 7:33PM

    "I have worked in Chelmsford Market for 40+ years. in all that time I have not seen 1 accident involving A Boards. Like all things in the streets, Litter bins, Lamp Posts, Street Signs people do sometimes bump into them even those of us with good eyesight. I will admit to walking into a lampost at least once in my life. But no damage to person. Small business is struggling at the moment and needs help not hinderance. A local shopping centre manager has made it his crusade to get them removed from Chelmsford, however far greater a danger on our pavements are those who ignore NO CYCLING signs and whizz along Cornhill. I have witnessed 3 incidents involving injuries (minor its true) here. Far more dangerous than an inanimate A board. also A boards are not prone to give forth with a stream of abuse as they narrowly avoid you. The cyclists seem to ,believe they have right of way in Cornhill, it is signed up as NO CYCLING and it is illlegal for an adult to cycle on the pavement but no one takes any action about that. Get your priorities right" I noticed that Phil was not taken to the High Street where the A boards from the BIG stores are who would take legal action against any attempt to move their A Boards he was taken to the Market where the small individual traders try to eke out a living. As i said I have seen many sight impaired people walk through Cornhill and not 1 has collided with these boards. Chelmsford City Council leave those boards alone!

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  • chalfred  |  June 11 2012, 4:24PM

    Surely blind people encounter hazards everywhere the go? are we going to ban kerbs, fixed road signs, pedestrians, cars etc etc? These signs represent vital advertising to traders particulary in Cornhill where it's difficult for passers by to actually see what businesses trade inside the market. Isn't the purpose of a white stick is to guide blind people around this sort of thing? It's disabilty scooters or buggies or whatever they are called should be banned in the town centre. They represent much more of a danger to blind and able bodied people than an A board ever does.

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