Scourge of estate agents boards to disappear from town centres

Published: Friday 11th March 16

Estate agents boards – seen by many as eyesores that scar the landscape – are set to become a thing of the past in four parts of Wandsworth after the council successfully lobbied for new legal powers that will be used to prevent their spread.

Under the new powers estate agents will need to apply for - and be granted - consent before they are allowed to put up their advertising signs.

The new powers cover four areas of the borough that are regularly targeted by estate agents and where residents and businesses have long complained about the rash of signs. 

These signs will soon be a thing of the past in the four areas

The areas cover three town centres Putney, Balham and Clapham Junction – plus streets in and around Lavender Hill.

The council’s environment spokesman Cllr Jonathan Cook said: “This announcement will be welcomed by many people who see these signs as nothing other than a scourge and a blot on the landscape. This is especially true for residents who live in blocks of flats that are often targeted by estate agents.

“Up to now tackling this problem has been incredibly time consuming and proved a major drain on resources. Each individual sign had to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis and as soon as one was taken down another would appear in its place.

“Those days are now over. From now on these signs are simply banned from these four sizeable areas unless they have the proper consent. Any advertising boards erected without this prior approval could land the company involved a hefty fine – with the amount rising for every day the sign remains in place.

“This breakthrough has been possible because we were able to make a persuasive and compelling case to be granted these special powers and I would like to assure our residents that we intend to use them very effectively.”

The powers were awarded to the council after a request to the secretary of state. He 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 from these four parts of our borough.” 

Within the four areas any estate agent boards erected without the express consent from the council will be 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.

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Recent comments

This is all very vague. But it is a start 1.When/.what date will this new legislation come into force.? 2. Estate agents will simply inundate you with requests. You will not be able to decide if the address is legitimate or not. 3. How will we know if a sign is legitimate? Will a code be written upon it so we can check? 4. Will you send people out to remove all existing boards . 5, In the same way we are allowed to pick up litter from the streets if we wish I take it we can remove any signs as we deem fit. They are of course litter. We would be most greatful if you would attend to these questions to clarify the confusion. Thank you. Mark Grant
Mark Grant

18 June 2016

Can I ask has the committee lobbying against estate boards considered the many people employed within the estate signage industry? The erection of these boards is almost always carried out by reputable businesses employing many local staff!
David Cleland

17 June 2016

I live in Romberg Road and she of the signs seem to stay up forever. there is something else that keeps happening in this street and surrounding and that is men trying to sell cleaning items. one in particular comes every few days and is drunk and nasty. he rings and knocks on the door several times shouting to open it and using bad language. he can barely walk. I don't know how he managed to get the items to sell. he looks extremely rough and is never sober. I find it a bit frightening.
Ursula Birt

14 June 2016

since this legislation was passed these wretched agents continue to deface our landscape with their arrogance and disregard at even a greater level. ohh they plead confusion etc when confronted. As they are all illegal then please confirm that we have every right to remove them. \thank you Mark Grant
mark grant

19 May 2016

These can be an eyesore and especially if left up long after the property has sold/is let. But they're not "free advertising", they can be informative to local people who want to see who's selling/moving in and also many agents advertise school fetes, community events and charities on the boards, so they are often more informative than people think. There is a question of how joint agency boards should be managed (when more than one agent is listing a property), and if agents are disintructed they should remove their boards immediately. Also the boards are installed, maintained and removed by independent boards/signage companies, and it depends on how professional they are as to whether they are installed/removed properly and how quickly.

15 April 2016

Good news! But in cases where permission is granted, please make estate agents commit to removing the wooden battens they use for fastening their boards to buildings. At present, hundreds of buildings are disfigured by battens left behind when the boards were removed.
Michael ridd

17 March 2016

Could someone please publish the actual legislation and associated papers, or links to them if they're on the web.
Ian R

16 March 2016

Have our councils seriously got nothing better to spend their time doing?
Phil W.

16 March 2016

I had a look at the map and realized that the four areas in question are extremely small. We talk here about a few roads only, which is very disappointing. Why such a narrow area? Could this be extended to the entire Borough?

16 March 2016

Good start. In the wider residential areas outside of these centres the voluntary code that estate agents are supposed to adhere to (signs remaining for 2 weeks post let/sale) should be enforced - spot checks on individual roads would be enough for agents to take proper notice if they start to incur fines. Currently there is no incentive for them to monitor their signage contractors more attentively. Every couple of months I call round the agents that are littering my road with free advertising to request removal - it does make a huge difference - but still their level of defensiveness is high, sometimes demanding to know my full name, address or attempting to deny my right to request removal as I'm not the owner of the specific property.

14 March 2016

This is the best news I have heard in a very long time, this needs to be put out Nationwide, not just one borough! They have taken advantage of something for far too long, and the streets needs to be tidied up.

14 March 2016

Please could I be sent a map detailing the exact placement of the board ban in these four areas so that I can organise for any boards that Marsh & Parsons have to be removed immediately so as not to incur the fines. Many thanks, Cire Lambden Marsh & Parsons
Cire Lambden

14 March 2016

Why stop at real estate boards? Why not a widespread declutter right across the borough and our High Streets of all the broken, redundant, unnecessary, unwanted signage, street furniture and drab functionless utilitarian 'objects'. All a dreadful eyesore and accumulation from modern society since the 1950's cluttering up our public realm, historic buildings and equally, cluttering up our minds and wasting resources. Have some pride in our public spaces and thoroughfares.
Gill Allen

12 March 2016

Did you do a survey on residents' views on these signs? Some of us like to know when our neighbours are selling, moving out of rented accom etc. we don't all sit on the internet looking at property sites. Surely there are more pressing issues the council should be focussing their time in and spending their resources on? Eg crime, education, pollution, anti-social behaviour ....
Catherine Perrott

12 March 2016

Estate Agent boards are an eyesore. It is purely FREE ADVERTISING for the agents not for clients who now always look up their requirements on-line! They stay up for ages after a property is sold or let. I have had to ring up Wandsworth Council in the past asking them to contact the agents to pull them down. No need these days! Also boards go up advertising events - ANOTHER EYESORE!

12 March 2016

We are living in Southfields and the house next door was rented two years ago. The "To Let sign" is still up there despite having asked for it to be removed from time to time. The tenants don't seem to care but we do. I would love to see this new ruling applied to the whole of Wandsworth - as the article suggests no prospective buyer now uses sale boards to sell houses. They are just ugly, intrusive and annoying
Lesley Chapman

12 March 2016

This is great. I live in a block of 4 flats near Whole Foods and all have been let / sold for a while but recently James Pendleton added a for sale board to the two ongoing to let boards above the door. None are for sale? These make the area look untidy and estate agents abuse them.

12 March 2016

This is long overdue, an eyesore, cheap advertising for get rich quick merchants, but please "Wandsworth Council" get these advert boards removed as soon as possible, any contravention be followed up with a huge fine of £1000. for starters

12 March 2016

This is great. I live in a block of 4 flats near Whole Foods and all have been let / sold for a while but recently James Pendleton added a for sale board to the two ongoing to let boards above the door. None are for sale? These make the area look untidy and estate agents abuse them.

12 March 2016

About time get rid of this ugly site from the whole borough. They are left up well over the legal planning limit. Nails are left projecting out of walls at childrens eye level. At times they are used just to advertise a local fete again illegally if left up too long.

12 March 2016

This ban should go much more widely, frankly most of the borough needs it. Various pleasant areas off Wandsworth Common - East Hill streets and Tonsleys, Westside, Westover Road, top of Earlsfield Road - are all spoiled by agents boards. And that should just be a starter! As the councillor says, agents work on the internet these days. Richard Richard

11 March 2016

Hugely approve! Just hope the ban is as widespread as possible - the article didn't make clear exactly how far the ban would go in the areas mentioned. The Council should not be timid about this. It is 100% correct that in the age of the internet, these boards are an anachronism that are ugly, but neither necessary nor useful. They now seem to exist purely as a cheap form of advertising for estate agents' firms. I think thousands of residents will welcome this move.

11 March 2016

It's worse in areas where there are lots of temporary lets - the lower end of Earlsfield Road is very bad. Free advertising on the pretence of "Let by" agents who actually do nothing apart from paperwork and collecting their cut.
Celia Blair

11 March 2016

Well done Wandsworth - with the Internet, estate agents boards should now be a thing of the past

11 March 2016