Review into traders’ advertising signs could ‘open can of worms’

Rothbury high street.
Rothbury high street.

Street furniture belonging to traders in Rothbury is to be reviewed, but one councillor has warned that it will open up a very large can of worms and could harm businesses.

At Wednesday night’s parish council meeting, some members felt that signage, as well as tables and chairs which are put out onto the pavement by businesses – potentially causing obstruction to pedestrians – needs to be looked at.

At the start of the year, Northumberland County Council reported that it had brought in new guidelines to make pavements safer and easier to negotiate, especially for those with visual impairments, in wheelchairs or with pushchairs.

For main pedestrian routes, the guidance states that there should be a minimum of two metres clear width of pavement and a desirable width of three and a half metres. For secondary pedestrian routes, the minimum clear width is one and a half metres, preferably two.

It covers items that are classed as unauthorised under the Highways Act, including A-boards, pavement cafes and goods for sale, and sets out the conditions which must be adhered to if items are to be placed on footpaths and in public areas.

At last week’s meeting, Coun Jeff Sutton said he would carry out a review in the village, but Coun Steven Bridgett warned that it would not go down well.

Coun Bridgett said: “If you are going down this route, it will open a very large can of worms and it will be the businesses that suffer. Whoever from the parish council wants to put their head above the parapet and stand and take the flack can take the flack.

“The county council has a set of rules but I think it is a case of them preferring to work with businesses, unless there has been a specific complaint made. As far as I know, there has not been any about Rothbury.

“If you put this on the county council’s radar they will contact the businesses. When the businesses aren’t happy, I will direct them to you.”

But Coun Sutton was unperturbed. He said: “It needs to be looked at across the board. You can’t wipe it off because it will open a can of worms. We need to look at this sensibly. I don’t want to infringe on anyone’s business, but we need to have a set of rules.”