The move has been welcomed by the city’s Civic Trust and disabled groups, who say the problem has been getting worse, with businesses competing to “out A-board each other” and turning parts of the centre into an obstacle course.
Businesses will be given a four-month period of grace before the ban comes in on January 1, if approved by City of York Council’s Executive next Thursday.
Those who breach the ban could see their boards removed if they ignore a warning and have to pay £92 to recover them.
Diane Roworth, chief executive of the York Blind and Partially Sighted Society said the ban had been a long time coming - but they were “absolutely delighted.”
She said: “If the details of this plan is what I saw months ago it is going to be really good news for visibly impaired people and anyone else who walks around York streets.”
The council will trial the new policy, which covers businesses within the Business Improvement District, apart from those on Micklegate, for a year. Businesses on Micklegate will have to apply to the council for a licence for a board.
Member of York Retail Forum, Hanus Wolf, who owns Burgins Perfumery, said he felt for small businesses like the ones on Little Stonegate who needed to let people know they were there, but generally “they were not pleasing to the eye.” He said: “I am sick and tired personally of seeing unnecessary A-boards. These little busineses will lose out but I honestly think there are too much. I took some photos on Stonegate and it was unbelievable how many there were - they just looked a mess.”
A council audit in 2012 found around 150 causing obstructions, and in some cases up to eight in a line, often in narrow pedestrian areas.
Coun Ian Gillies, executive member for transport and planning, said: “We have had overtures from disabled groups, the civic trust and various people complaining about the growing numbers of A boards, particularly in the city centre, adding to street clutter and also being a danger to pedestrians and an obstacle for the blind and partially sighted. It’s an obstruction in legal terms and it adds to street clutter. York being the type of city it is it distracts from the environment.”
The council and the BID are suggesting businesses which are approached down an alleyway and don’t have a shop window directly on a thoroughfare could put up a wall-mounted city approved board. Coun Gillies said they wouldn’t abandon affected retailers and would consider any evidence that it had impacted on their trade in a report which will be bought back to the Executive after next year’s trial.
Andrew Scott, chairman of York Civic Trust, said some business were competing with each other to “out A-board each other.” He said: “One A-board is probably a good idea but what happens is everybody has one and before you know it the city is awash with them. They get in the way of pedestrians, particularly disabled pedestrians and distract from the quality of the streetscape, We are delighted the city is moving to manage them.”
But a retailer who asked to remain anonymous said some small businesses would be impacted: “For people who are not on a beaten track or are down a side alley, you ned to point people in the right direction. People notice A-boards. Wall-mounted signs won’t necessarily work.”