Council lobbies for powers to ban estate agents boards in six local areas
Published: Friday 22nd June 18
Estate agents boards – seen by many as eyesores that litter the landscape – could become a thing of the past in six areas of the borough if ministers back the council’s call for new powers to tackle the issue.
Wandsworth is to seek additional powers from the secretary of state to ban all estate agent boards from the following areas: Balham High Road, Northcote Road, Queenstown Road, Old York Road, Tooting Town Centre and the stretch of Garratt Lane north of Earlsfield Station.
Councillors on the community services committee last night (Thursday) backed the move after hearing that similar powers had been successfully used since 2016 in the three town centres at Putney, Balham and Clapham Junction – along with streets in and around Lavender Hill.
A report to committee members stated: “The council is experiencing a significant increase in the volume of complaints regarding the proliferation of estate agent boards in parts of the borough.
“In some areas, agents are using their boards as a means of additional advertising notwithstanding if their properties are being sold or let. In other circumstances it appears the boards are being displayed for long periods of time without being removed by agents when their premises are sold or let. This is having a detrimental effect on the visual amenity of our streets and has prompted calls from residents for the council to take pro-active action to resolve the situation.”
The council’s planning spokesman Cllr Jonathan Cook said: “This approach to the minister will be supported by many people who see these signs as nothing other than an unwelcome blot on the landscape.
“This is especially true for residents who live in blocks of flats that are often heavily targeted by estate agents even if they don’t have a property to sell or rent anywhere nearby.
“Tackling this problem without these powers is incredibly time consuming and a major drain on resources. Each individual sign has to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis and as soon as one is taken down another appears in its place.
“If the minister grants this request it would build on the successful implementation of the scheme in four parts of the borough that had previously been targeted quite relentlessly by local estate agents.
“In those parts of the borough estate agents simply complied with the prohibition in the full knowledge that if they didn’t they would face a hefty fine that would increase day-by-day until their sign was removed.
“The scheme has worked very effectively so far which is why we now want to expand it to cover these six additional areas.”
The 2016 powers were awarded to the council after a similar request to the then secretary of state, who appointed an independent planning inspector to consider the merits of the council’s case and make a recommendation.
Describing the boards as “a dominating feature in the street scene”, the inspector concluded: “Estate agents’ for sale and letting boards significantly harm visual amenity in the four areas concerned.
“By their very nature the boards are intended to be temporary features and this is reflected in the relative crudeness of their design and materials. When they become almost semi-permanent and are seen in large numbers, they detract markedly from the visual quality of an area.
“Accordingly, a reduction in their numbers in the areas concerned would significantly improve visual amenity. These are all densely populated urban areas and any diminution in environmental quality is experienced by a large number of residents and people travelling through the areas.”
Cllr Cook added: “Most marketing of properties for sale or rent is now done online and people who are interested in moving to a particular area can find homes to buy or rent very easily on the internet.
“The only people who want to put these eyesore signs up are the agents because they are a cheap and simple advertising tool. No-one apart from them will mourn their disappearance.”
Within the ban areas any estate agent boards erected without the express consent from the council is guilty of an offence under section 224 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. Any person found guilty of such an offence is liable of a fine of up to £2,500 upon conviction in the magistrates' court and up to £250 per day should the offence continue after a first conviction.
The ban would not extend to boards often given to parents to advertise local school fairs of fetes. The ban would cover only those boards specifically used to advertise the sale or letting of a property.