Biggest Board Ban in Britain

September newsletter by MP Greg Hands

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A successful ban on estate agents’ advertising boards has been extended in Hammersmith & Fulham – making it part of the biggest ban in Britain, MP Greg Hands said in his latest newsletter.

Earlier this week, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), gave H&F Council the green light to stop ‘for sale’ and ‘to let’ signs being displayed in another four conservation areas, bringing the total to six. There is already a successful long-standing blanket ban on the boards in the Barons Court and Sinclair Road conservation areas, which was introduced four years ago – when H&F Council became one of the first authorities to ban estate agents’ boards.

The extension will now include the whole of Hammersmith Grove conservation area, and the majority of roads in the conservation areas of Olympia and Avonmore, Gunter Estate, and Walham Green, Parsons Green and Moore Park.

Councillor Nicholas Botterill, H&F Council’s cabinet member for environment, said: “This is a victory for every resident who has had to put up with multiple tatty, ugly and large signs that make roads look cluttered and shabby. This ruling will mean streets in the new banned areas will be cleaner and more attractive than ever.”

The ruling, known as Regulation 7 under the Town and Country Planning Act, allows councils to ban boards following a consultation with residents and with the consent of the Secretary of State. The same ruling has been extended in neighbouring Kensington & Chelsea, meaning the west London ban covers 23 conservation areas.

According to strict advertising laws, currently boards can only be displayed where a property is for sale or for rent, and must then be removed within 14 days of the house or flat being sold or let. However, despite tough action from the council to remove illegal boards and six prosecutions since the start of the year, getting the evidence to prove they are illegal can often be difficult.

“Unfortunately, a minority of estate agents break the rules and turn streets into an eyesore, but this will now allow us to come down even harder on rogue agents who think they are above the law,” said Cllr Botterill. “They simply cannot put up boards wherever they like, for however long they like and get away with it – we’ll make sure of that.”

A consultation last year with residents living in the new ‘ban zones’ showed that 98 per cent of respondents supported the scheme and wanted the council to rid the areas of signs, the newsletter said.

Mary Pillai, of Mornington Avenue Mansions, Olympia, said: “There certainly are fewer boards in my street now than there were a year ago, but every board is an eyesore. These boards are litter and do nothing to enhance the community and are also not necessary in this age of Internet access.”

Estate agents in H&F are also backing the ban, saying that clean, uncluttered streets help sell houses and flats, but still claim that boards are a major tool when it comes to selling a property.

Richard Turner, from Jorgensen and Turner estate agents in Uxbridge Road, Shepherds Bush, said: “The original ban around Sinclair Road certainly improved the look of the streets around there and actually made it more attractive for buyers.”

Robert Barr, sales manager from Kerr & Co, in Goldhawk Road, said: “We are for the boards as they do help us sell, but I can see the arguments for de-cluttering the streets. When they are well policed by the council and estate agents themselves, it can work. A forest of boards is no good and there are some unscrupulous estate agents and housing associations out there who allow their boards to stay up for months on end.”

H&F has had a problem historically with estate agents putting up forests of boards, especially in roads where most large Victorian houses have been converted into flats.

The council has been working on the plans to extend the ban since last summer and applied to the DCLG for the extension in March, following approval by the council.

David Leeming, the DCLG’s inspector, visited the borough in May and saw the problem for himself. He said: “There is a significant problem in the defined areas, even though many boards are no doubt displayed lawfully. The local concentrations of boards I saw on the residential terraces in Hammersmith Grove, Avonmore Road and Harwood Road, created a particular impression of clutter and excess.”

He added that even a limited number of boards have ‘a noticeably intrusive effect’ and that the boards ‘detracted’ from roads and buildings, including the listed Fulham Town Hall.

Mr Leeming said: “Normal controls are inadequate here. The harm to visual amenity I have identified within the areas could only be overcome by removing deemed consent rights for the display of estate agents’ boards.”

The ban will begin on October 5 and will apply initially for five years, with the council reviewing the situation at the end of this time. The MP urges people to report an illegal board by emailing boards@lbhf.gov.uk.

The views expressed in this interview are those of Greg Hands MP, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Hammersmith Today or Neighbour Net Ltd. To read more sign up to Greg Hands' newsletter on his official web page.

September 23, 2010