No more boards for conservation areas?

Planning Committee moves council one step closer to board control

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A local council have take one more step closer to taking over control of estate agent boards.

Hammersmith & Fulham Council is seeking new powers from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister to protect residents from the excessive spread of estate agents boards in local conservation areas.

The council's Planning Applications Committee voted to allow the council to ask the ODPM to bring estate agents' boards in local conservation areas under local authority control.

If permission is granted, this will mean that estate agents who want to erect boards in these areas will have to apply for planning permission from the council and will also clear the way for other local authorities to assume similar control.

Councillor Michael Cartwright, Cabinet Member for Environment, said "A few irresponsible estate agents have been making residents' lives a misery in some areas, and the council has exhausted all other options in trying to stop them blighting conservation areas with their excessive signage. We hope that the ODPM will give us these powers to allow us to control this problem and allow us to help residents reclaim their streets from this advertising frenzy."

An investigation by local trading standards officers carried out at the end of last year revealed that over a third of estate agents' display boards are in fact illegal.

Following a number of complaints from members of the public about estate agents’ signs outside blocks of flats, Trading Standards Officers from Hounslow Borough, in partnership with other Trading Standards Departments in South West London, investigated the problem.

A survey was carried out, and 144 of ‘For Sale’ and ‘To Let’ signs were photographed in the borough. Trading Standards Officers contacted the Estate Agents and Letting Agents concerned to find out if they were entitled to have the signs up, and discovered that 52 (36%) were illegally displayed.

The use of illegal signs is contrary to planning regulations [Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) Regulation 1992], which stipulate the number and the size of the boards, and the length of time after a sale or tenancy has been granted that they can be displayed. They are also contrary to Trading Standards law, which makes it a criminal offence to advertise property for sale or to let when this is not the case.

Estate agents must take down a board within two weeks of the property being sold or let and only two boards are allowed per property and they must be displayed back-to-back.

Some of the more reputable local agents are consistently frustrated by the amount of fly-boarding in the area. In addition it is not unknown for rival agents to rip down their competitor's legitimately based signs and replace them with their own. A Chiswick based agent was forced to admit a few years ago that it employed a contractor who was given a list of specific signs to remove.

March 23, 2006