Scourge of estate agents boards to disappear from town centres

Published: 11 March 2016

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. 

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.