Banner blow is just ‘over the top’

Richard Watts, Carolyn Birch, Judith Watts with the church banner
Richard Watts, Carolyn Birch, Judith Watts with the church banner

A “heavy-handed” council has been accused of threatening the success of forthcoming community events in Leighton Buzzard after removing promotional banners.

Up to 30 notices pinned to railings across town were taken down by council workers without warning last week because they were deemed to be giving the area a “messy” appearance. The council is now looking at ways to regulate the banners more effectively.

But this week two community groups, which had events looming and had been keenly publicising them on the railings, have hit out at the decision after being shocked to discover their banners suddenly removed.

Richard Watts, chairman of the fundraising committee at St Barnabas Church, Linslade, said their summer fair banner had been up for two weeks on railings at the bottom of New Road car park, before he noticed it had been pulled down on Tuesday.

“I drove down to London in the morning and it was there. By 4pm when I got back it had gone and all the other community posters had been taken down too. We have had stuff up there for years and we always took them down after the event. The commercial ones stay up there for ages.

“It’s for the community and it’s always been an important way to communicate with the outside world.

“To take it down a few days before the event is a bit severe, over the top and heavy handed. This is our biggest fundraising event of the year.”

Mr Watts said the church had ordered a new banner last year. “Ours isn’t tatty. It cost a lot of money,” he said.

However, he accepted the council had a point about the look of the area, adding: “It’s sensible in the long run to have a policy. These things can get out of control and it doesn’t look too good. But they could’ve taken the commercial ones down and talked to the other community groups.”

Leighton Buzzard Drama Group is performing Blackadder on June 16-18 and publicity officer Andrew Ferguson said he was upset by the lack of communication from the White House.

He said: “We didn’t know anything of the banners being taken down and we are very disappointed that the council hadn’t sought to contact the group regarding any issues that our banners may have been causing.

“We would have been happy to discuss any problems if they had actually decided to speak to us. We are a local drama group and bring in revenue to the town and coming into our last week before our production this has now hurt the group in trying to get the message out to the greater Leighton Buzzard community that we have a new show on. Some of the proceeds are going to Comic Relief too.”

“We only tend to have our banners up for about two months before any of our productions and feel this doesn’t make the town look messy but shows that the town is a fun place to be with lots of local events that are upcoming.

“Now the banners are not allowed lots of people that drive into and out of the town will be unaware of fun local community events that they can be part of.”

The town council has pointed out that at the bottom of Wing Road there had been about nine banners and the river bridge near Morrisons had a similar number.

As well as other material, it has also removed its own banners promoting its summer band concerts and the canal festival.

Town clerk Mark Saccoccio said: “We find ourselves in the position where banners are appearing on what appears to be almost every available railing in and around the town. From Zumba to Eaton Bray beer festival, we have them all.

“I have received several complaints from the public on the grounds that that they represent both clutter, are unsightly and a nuisance to drivers. More importantly is the fact that advertisement consent is required for which said banners do not have.

“We removed them because firstly they do not have advertisement consent and secondly they do little to contribute to the environment.

“We have Anglia in Bloom judging shortly so we want the town looking its best.

“I would urge those who wish to either advertise their business, attraction or charitable event to seek advertisement consent from CBC as the planning authority and custodians of the street furniture upon which most of the banners are placed.

“In the usual way, as a council we are more than happy to place any poster on our noticeboards if charitable organisations wish to do this.”

The council is currently investigating ways to control promotional banners in the long term.

Mr Saccoccio added: “We want to introduce a policy whereby if people want to put adverts up two weeks before an event, we’ll allow that and take it down afterwards.”