A local council is banning estate and letting agents’ boards after it has been handed legal powers to ‘prevent their spread’.
Agents will now have to apply for consent from Wandsworth Council in London to display boards in the town centres of Putney, Balham and Clapham Junction, as well as parts of Lavender Hill.
Any agency which erects boards without express consent from the council will be guilty of an offence under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and will be liable for a fine of up to £2,500 and up to £250 per day should the offence continue after a first conviction.
Wandsworth Council was awarded the powers to ban boards which are displayed without consent after putting in a request to the secretary of state.
An independent planning inspector was then appointed to consider the council’s case and make a recommendation.
The planning inspector described boards as ‘a dominating feature in the street scene’ and concluded that: “Estate agents’ for sale and letting boards significantly harm visual amenity in the four areas concerned.”
They said that boards are intended to be temporary features but when they become ‘semi-permanent’, they ‘detract markedly’ from the visual quality of an area.
The council says that residents and businesses have long complained about the quantity and positions of agents’ boards in the four areas concerned.
Wandsworth Council’s environment spokesman, Councillor Jonathan Cook, said that the move will be welcomed by many people who see agents’ boards as a ‘scourge’ and a ‘blot on the landscape’.
“Up to now tackling this problem has been incredibly time consuming and proved a major drain on resources,” said Cook. “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.”
He added: “Most marketing of properties for sale or rent is now done online and people who are interested in moving to a particular area can find homes to buy or rent very easily on the internet.”
“The only people who want to put these eyesore signs up are the agents because they are a cheap and simple advertising tool. No-one apart from them will mourn their disappearance from these four parts of our borough.”
The council’s press release attracted a number of comments from local residents, the majority of which were in favour of the ban.
Many of the comments seemed to echo Councillor Cook’s statements about the role of the internet in property marketing.
One comment, left by ‘Simon’, said: “Well done Wandsworth - with the Internet, estate agents boards should now be a thing of the past.”
Another said: “It is 100% correct that in the age of the internet, these boards are an anachronism that are [sic] ugly, but neither necessary nor useful.”
However, one commenter, Catherine Perrott, disagreed with the ban, writing: “Did you do a survey on residents' views on these signs? Some of us like to know when our neighbours are selling, moving out of rented accom etc. we don't all sit on the internet looking at property sites.”
“Surely there are more pressing issues the council should be focussing their time in and spending their resources on? E.g. crime, education, pollution, anti-social behaviour...”
Last week Conservative activist Judy Terry described boards as 'litter' and called for a strict clampdown on the length of time boards are displayed outside properties.
Meanwhile, at the start of this month, Cheltenham Council wrote to all local estate and letting agents saying that it would no longer be issuing 'gentle reminders' to businesses which break the law on boards.
It said it will now 'exercise its powers' to make sure all agents comply with the various legal regulations and acts which cover the display of boards.
*Graham Norwood is away on annual leave until March 17th. Conor Shilling will be undertaking editorial duties in his absence. Please send any press enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org