Councillors want to halt Oban A-board ban for trader talks

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Councillors are recommending that a policy to remove A-frame signs from Oban’s streets is halted to make way for more consultation with traders.

An urgent motion on the town’s street sign saga was brought up by Councillor Julie McKenzie at an Oban, Lorn and the Isles Area Committee meeting and was agreed.

Councillor McKenzie said Argyll and Bute Council had a responsibility to encourage footfall in the town centre and to help businesses thrive, calling for a moratorium on the council’s current enforcement procedure.

The motion was unanimously supported and will now go to the council’s licensing and enforcement committee.

In March this year, without warning, council officers  removed unauthorised advertisement boards without notifying the owners.

The council apologised for taking them without notice and owners were able to collect them from the council yard but a warning followed that it would be stepping up enforcement of its A-board policy with letters being sent out to businesses advising them to apply for permission.

Reminders were set to be issued early this month and any signs that did not have permission were to be removed, keeping access open for pedestrians and streets attractive to visitors.

The policy for street signs can be found on the council website: www.argyll-bute.gov.uk/board-signs.

Councillor McKenzie said she had received representations from businesses in the town centre who believed their trade was being adversely impacted by the anti-A-frame policy.

She said one business which got in touch  had ‘hit the wall’ and cited the removal of its A-board to blame.

‘This is not what we should be doing as a council. We have a responsibility to work with businesses to enable them to trade and that’s why I would like to move an urgent motion. It’s key that we do it now rather than leave the potential for further damage,’ she added.

Money earmarked from the  Scottish Government’s Town Centre Fund, including an additional investment from BID4Oban, will see new interpretation signs being installed, as well as upgraded noticeboards.

The noticeboards, managed by BID4Oban, will be to the same specification as the street furniture installed during the Oban town centre improvements some years ago and businesses on side streets will have priority for advertising on the boards, which will also include maps.

But those signs, although welcomed by traders, will not make up for trade lost through A-boards being removed, according to Councillor McKenzie.

She told fellow councillors: ‘It’s been made clear by traders that while they welcome the new signs from funding for BID4Oban, they would not be a replacement for what they would lose under the current policy.’