A St Andrews councillor is hopeful that a planned new approach to dealing with the thorny problem of the escalation of advertisement boards in St Andrews town centre could be a success.
A-boards have become a common feature on pavements in the central area of the university town over recent years, and there have been numerous calls for Fife Council to get to grips with it.
In response to one particular complaint, the leader of the council, Alex Rowley, plans to walk blindfolded around St Andrews town centre early next month, to experience the difficulties first hand faced by pedestrians who have sight problems.
St Andrews Councillor Brian Thomson told the Citizen: ”The proliferation of A-boards has got out of hand, and attempts by council officers to curb the problem – such as a recent leaflet drop to local businesses – have failed to have any impact. Most of the A-boards are unnecessary clutter on the pavements, and form dangerous obstacles for pedestrians who are blind, or visually or mobility impaired.”
He explained that he and fellow local councillors received so many complaints they held a meeting recently with an officer from the council’s transportation and environmental services department when it was agreed that a more robust approach would be adopted towards A-boards that formed an obstruction on town centre pavements.
“This could result in such boards being removed,” he added.
Under the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984, the council or police have the power to remove obstructions from pavements and Dundee City Council has used this legislation to successfully enforce a zero-tolerance approach to A-boards for the last 12 years.
Councillor Thomson added: ”I welcome the more robust approach that council officers are going to take, and I will be stressing to Alex Rowley the importance of it. We have agreed to review the situation in a month’s time, however, if this new approach is not successful and I will be looking for the introduction of further measures.”
One option would be the zero-tolerance approach similar to that in Dundee and he concluded: ”Such an approach is attractive, albeit it would possibly need to be adapted for St Andrews, to maintain the visibility of the significant amount of businesses that are located in lanes and closes. Ultimately, however, pedestrian safety has to be the main priority.”
Fellow Councillor Dorothea Morrison said: ”A-boards have been increasing in numbers over the years and placed close to tables and chairs on the pavement there is little room left for pedestrians. In parts of South Street there is hardly room for single-file walking never mind the problems for the disabled and those with visual impairment.
”I know the Fife Society for the Blind is worried about the situation in St Andrews.”
Responding, Angus Carmichael, service manager of network management, said: ”Legislation does permit the implementation of a zero tolerance approach. However, in line with practice across much of the country, Fife Council adopt a more pragmatic approach to enforcement.
“Unfortunately, from time to time it is necessary to take action and the current abuse in the centre of St Andrews requires intervention. In view of this, over the next few weeks a number of premises will be advised that failure to remove the more obvious obstructions will result in them being uplifted.”