New powers to deal with 'scourge' of signs in borough
The number of estate agents' boards is set to diminish in four parts of Wandsworth after the council successfully lobbied the Secretary of State for new legal powers.
Now estate agents will need to apply for - and be granted - consent before they are allowed to put up their advertising signs.
The targeted areas are Clapham Junction, Balham and Putney Town Centres as well as the streets in and around Lavender Hill.
Wandsworth council’s environment spokesman Cllr Jonathan Cook said, “This announcement will be welcomed by many people who see these signs as nothing other than a scourge and a blot on the landscape. This is especially true for residents who live in blocks of flats that are often targeted by estate agents.
“Up to now tackling this problem has been incredibly time consuming and proved a major drain on resources. Each individual sign had to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis and as soon as one was taken down another would appear in its place.
“Those days are now over. From now on these signs are simply banned from these four sizeable areas unless they have the proper consent. Any advertising boards erected without this prior approval could land the company involved a hefty fine – with the amount rising for every day the sign remains in place. This breakthrough has been possible because we were able to make a persuasive and compelling case to be granted these special powers and I would like to assure our residents that we intend to use them very effectively.”
Local agent Allan Fuller has welcomed the new power saying, "Estate Agents have only themselves to blame for a firm approach being adopted by Wandsworth Council. There are strict rules about how long, and how many boards can be erected outside properties. For example there should only be one board for each property, although it can contain two agents, one each side."
He continued, "There were only about six agents here when we set up in 1983, now there are about 27 shops competing for not enough business so we have seen practises such as over boarding become rife, and even taking down one agents board to put up another! As a highly professional company we are delight that action is at last being taken which will create more fairness in our industry but importantly remove eyesores where there are a plethora of boards where there should be one or none!"
The powers were awarded to the council after a request to the Secretary of State. He appointed an independent planning inspector to consider the merits of the council’s case and make a recommendation. Describing the boards as “a dominating feature in the street scene”, the inspector concluded: “Estate agents’ for sale and letting boards significantly harm visual amenity in the four areas concerned. By their very nature the boards are intended to be temporary features and this is reflected in the relative crudeness of their design and materials. When they become almost semi-permanent and are seen in large numbers, they detract markedly from the visual quality of an area.
“Accordingly, a reduction in their numbers in the areas concerned would significantly improve visual amenity. These are all densely populated urban areas and any diminution in environmental quality is experienced by a large number of residents and people travelling through the areas.”
Within the four designated areas any estate agent boards erected without the express consent from the council will be guilty of an offence under section 224 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. Any person found guilty of such an offence is liable to a fine of up to £2,500 on conviction in the magistrates' court and up to £250 per day should the offence continue after a first conviction.
March 15, 2016