Plans to bring in a voluntary ban on estate agents’ boards could help turn an eyesore into a beauty spot.
Letting agents operating in the university area of Reading are being asked if they can stop using To Let and Let By boards outside properties – the Council says that there are areas where the boards are left on display all year round to attract potential student lets.
A report going to a meeting of the Council’s Strategic Environment, Transport and Planning Committee (SEPT) on Wednesday, July 16 outlines the trial voluntary ban, which will run in a part of Redlands Ward from October 1 until to March 31 next year.
It comes after a well-attended meeting earlier this year, to which local letting agents were invited. The meeting heard how the vast majority of lettings now come via website traffic. Many agents at the March meeting agreed in principle to stop using the boards outside rental properties they are advertising.
Anecdotal evidence shows that the number of boards has dropped since the meeting, but the Council has nevertheless followed it up with a letter to agents inviting them to take part in the voluntary ban.
Tony Page, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Member for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, said: “At a time when most student lettings are carried out online, there is absolutely no need for agents to have their boards on display – sometimes for months on end – other than to advertise their company. I was encouraged by the response of many agents who attended the March meeting and who agreed to stop using these boards.
“This is an issue the Council is regularly lobbied on by local residents in Redlands and parts of Park and Katesgrove Wards. At this stage there is no proposal to restrict the number of ‘for sale’ boards as they only represent a very small proportion of boards.”
Rob White, Green Party councillor in neighbouring Park Ward, said: “Parts of Park Ward are blighted by the forest of To Let signs on a regular basis so we are pleased to see the Council starting to act on this in Redlands.
“However, I am thoroughly disappointed that the trial area stops at the Redlands Ward boundary and so fails to include roads like Pitcroft Avenue and Grange Avenue which are some of the worst affected roads across the whole of the Borough.”
The SEPT report highlights possible alternative options open to the Council and the local community should the voluntary ban not prove satisfactory. These include the possibility of applying to the Secretary of State for what is known as a Regulation 7 Direction. This would mean that advertisement consent would be needed for all estate agent boards in a given area and that any boards displayed without formal consent could be subject to enforcement action.
A report will be brought back to a separate SEPT meeting after end of the voluntary ban trial period setting out the results of the pilot.
Where the trial will run
The trial will apply to the area bounded by, and including, the south side of London Road between Alexandra Road and Cemetery Junction, the south side of Wokingham Road from Cemetery Junction to Eastern Avenue, the west side of Eastern Avenue, the north side of Upper Redlands Road from Eastern Avenue to Alexandra Road, and the west side of Alexandra Road. A map showing the area can be found here.
Updated to add in a quote from Cllr Rob White, Green Party, Park Ward.