Last night I attended a meeting of the St John’s Hill traders to discuss the use of A-boards on the street outside their shops. It is fair to say that the council’s enforcement of this had put a few backs up, not just there, but also on my own ward on Lavender Hill.
As with so many things, it is a balancing act, the council has to consider the needs of residents, some of whom may have accessibility issues and need to have clear pavements as well as the needs of businesses who want to advertise their businesses to the passing trade. I would throw in a third consideration, that allowing businesses to display outside their store actually enhances the look of the street.
And of course what’s right for St John’s Hill is not necessary right for the rest of the borough. We have a real problem in Tooting, especially places like Upper Tooting Road where pedestrians are forced to compete for narrow pavement with overflowing shop displays and illegal traders.
However, the compromise that council officers are proposing seems sensible and workable, allowing shops to use and enhance the pavement while also ensuring a minimum clearance so pedestrians can use the street without having to weave around obstacles. The basic plan allows displays directly outside the shop, and requires a minimum 2 metres clearance on the pavement – so the narrow pavements of Tooting won’t be overcrowded and the wide streets of Lavender Hill and St John’s Hill won’t be barren.
Obviously nothing’s perfect, and this will have be reviewed once in place to make sure there are no anomalies, but the response of the St John’s Hill traders was uniformly positive, and hopefully everyone will be happy with the outcome.
The new enforcement protocol will come into force next month after going through the council’s Planning and Transport Overview and Scrutiny Committee and Executive.