Cannock Chase Council’s Cabinet has agreed that the current policy on the Commercial Use of the Highway which affects the display of A boards, chairs and tables in Cannock, Rugeley and Hednesford town centres should be retained.
But after taking into account the views of the Promoting Prosperity Scrutiny Committee, who were asked to review the existing policy introduced in April 2018, it believes the policy should be modified to recognise some of the concerns expressed by businesses and the needs of the wider community.
The decision came at its meeting held yesterday in the Civic Centre (13 December).
Recognising the work of members who formed the Scrutiny Committee’s Working Group, who reviewed the policy in a short timescale, Cabinet said it was keen to balance the perfectly understandable needs of businesses wanting to promote themselves and their locations, with the needs of wheelchair and mobility scooter users and people with a visual impairment who sometimes struggle to navigate town centres.
Cabinet has agreed that the current fee of £85 for a single A board for three years and £85 per year for a single table and four chairs for eating places should be reviewed by officers, to take on board the challenges many businesses are currently facing. It has also asked officers to look into concerns that the policy is `inequitable` as it only applies to town centres and not the District as a whole.
While to ensure the health and safety of the wider community, especially more vulnerable town centre users, it wants officers to ensure that businesses have appropriate public liability insurance in place should any person suffer an injury and need to make a claim as a result of the display of A boards, tables and chairs on town centre streets.
Finally, it has asked officers to investigate whether the enforcement of highways obstructions covered by the policy can be delegated from the county council to the district council to simplify matters.
Councillor Christine Martin, Portfolio Leader for Health and Wellbeing said:
“We do thank the committee members for their diligent and thorough review of the policy. Cabinet members have considered with great care the group’s recommendations.
“Overall, it is our view that the aspirations behind the introduction of the policy continue to be worthwhile and valid, and that the policy does cater for both the needs of businesses to promote themselves and for the wider community to enjoy our town centres to the full.
“We note that there does seem to be broad compliance with the current policy, although less so with pavement cafes where permission has not generally been sought to display tables and chairs.
“In listening to the concerns we therefore want to balance the needs of businesses with our wider community and to create fairness. Hence we are also asking officers to consider widening the policy to include the whole district, thereby addressing concerns that our town centres are being treated unfavourably, in addition to looking at the fee structures as a whole.”
Photograph shows Cannock town centre