We understand that there has been a great deal of concern expressed on social media about the roll out of the new policy that controls street furniture (A-boards, displays, tables and chairs). It may be that the purpose behind the policy has been lost in the conversation so we would like to offer more information.
The highway authority (Monmouthshire County Council) is responsible for providing a safe and unhindered route for pedestrians along the pavements and open spaces of the public highway. At present no businesses displaying A-boards, displays, coffee tables, chairs etc. have formal permission to place these items in the street. As such, the business is at risk if someone is injured should they trip or fall over and the highways authority is also at risk for allowing it to happen. Our scheme works with each business to agree where their A-boards, displays etc. may be placed, assuming we can provide a safe route for pedestrians, and provide them with a license to do so, authorising that street furniture can be placed in the street. The business can then display its permit and that confirms that the council approves its siting in the ‘public highway’ (the roads, pavements, open areas etc. – accepting that some open spaces are actually owned privately).
Before introducing the scheme there was a lot of research into what other councils do and consultation with various groups, including chambers of commerce – this type of scheme is quite typical nowadays rather than the old blanket policy.
Why is there a charge? This scheme requires us to work with individual businesses and provide individual permits. This is much more time-consuming than the old policy (which would have required many displays, A-boards etc. being removed) so a one-off charge (not annual) of £50 is reasonable. There is a higher charge for displays and coffee tables but these do offer businesses a greater sales opportunity over and above advertising. The scheme is intended to support businesses while the council maintains its responsibilities to provide a safe environment in the public highway. We appreciate that this comes alongside revaluations to business rates but this is outside of Mon CC’s control although members are lobbying to see what help can be gained for our local businesses.