Businesses are being reminded of new rules brought in this year to make pavements in Northumberland safer and easier to negotiate for pedestrians.
Awareness sessions are being held with traders over the next month to remind them of their obligations over pavement signage – and the council will be looking to address any areas where the guidelines aren’t being followed.
The guidance was introduced at the beginning of the year, following renewed calls for change from visual action groups, when the county council reviewed its policy on pavement obstructions and brought in new guidelines.
The guidance was designed to balance the needs of pedestrians to be able to visit and shop in safety, with the needs of shops and businesses to promote their services – keeping the local economy vibrant in Northumberland.
It covers items that are classed as unauthorised under the Highways Act, including A-boards, pavement cafes and goods for sale. The guidance also sets out the conditions which must be adhered to if items are to be placed on footpaths and in public areas, and provides specific details about A-boards.
The council worked closely with the Royal National Institute for the Blind and the Northumberland Low Vision Action Group and representatives of other disability groups to consider how best to deal with street clutter, and to support visually impaired people to live independent lives. It carried out a review of current policies and consulted widely across the county with businesses, local councillors and town and parish councils.
Highway inspectors will be carrying out regular walkabouts in towns across the county, and where they identify any issues they will remind local businesses of their obligations and where necessary take follow-up action to ensure compliance with the guidance is being maintained.
Councillor Glen Sanderson, cabinet member for environment and local services at the county council said: “While we are always keen to see high street businesses doing well, over recent years we’ve had an increased number of complaints about on-street signs, as well as other obstructions, which make journeys along footpaths challenging at times.
“As a responsible local authority we need to ensure members of the public can use the streets and footways easily and safely. However, ‘A’ boards and other items placed on pavements can make life very difficult for people with sight or mobility impairments,that’s why it was important we brought in new guidelines.”
“They’ve now been in place for several months and businesses have had plenty of time to make any adjustments, so it’s timely we review how the guidance is being adhered to and remind traders of their responsibilities and take action where necessary.
“Our highways staff will be out and about in our towns reminding businesses what is permitted and also answering any questions they may have.”