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Company fined over roadside signs

A company director has been ordered to pay £1,763.50 after his firm illegally put signs up across the East Riding advertising a Christmas event in Beverley. Paul Leonard, of Cottage Industrys Ltd, of Ings Lane, Dunswell, pleaded guilty on behalf of the company to fly-posting when he appeared at Beverley Magistrates’ Court. The firm was fined £1,000 and was ordered to pay £763.50 costs.

The court was told streetscene enforcement officers from East Riding of Yorkshire Council spotted a number of large signs advertising a Mistletoe Fair had been placed on roadside verges at various major junctions and roundabouts across the area.

Officers contacted Mr Leonard and warned him he was committing an offence and gave him the opportunity to remove the signs. But, the court was told,  the firm failed to take away many of the boards by a given date and 44 of the signs had to be removed by council officers.

Mr Leonard told Beverley FM more than 10,000 people had attended the fair, the first he’d organised in Beverley, when it was held at the racecourse last November. He said his company, based at Tokenspire Business Park, runs events all over the country with his Shop For Something Different marquees a well-known sight at major country fairs, including the Royal Three Counties Show, Great Yorkshire Show and Chatsworth Country Fair. And, he said, it had always been his ambition to do something in his home town.

He told us: “We wanted to get the message out so must have put up something like 150 signs on sites like roundabouts which already sport advertising. But then we got a call from the council saying we had to take them down and that if we didn’t we would be fined.

“I explained to the lady that I was in Hertfordshire attending another event but that I would get someone to remove them, which I did. As far as I was concerned that should have been the end of the matter but then, in January, I got a letter with a fixed penalty notice.”

He continued: “The fair was on the weekend of November 10, 11 and 12 and on the 12th I went round to check, just to make sure all the signs had gone. I found four which the lad I employed had missed, so I personally removed them.”

He said: “I don’t for the life of me understand the council’s reasoning behind this. It’s left me totally disillusioned. At the end of the day we have organised and run an event that benefits the town’s economy – thousands visiting and spending money that they otherwise wouldn’t have done. I know for a fact many who came from a distance away stayed over by booking into B&Bs. But really, this is totally unhelpful.

“By comparison, Beverley Town Council did everything possible to help and we put up a banner in the town centre. But East Riding has taken a very rigid stance. Even though the signs were not causing a problem and were only going to be in place for a very short time, once they told me I had to remove them I took steps to comply with that.

“I sent an email explaining I was out of town and couldn’t do it personally but that I would pay for someone else to go round and collect them. The evidence I received with the fixed penalty notice includes photographs of signs that as far as I know were taken down straight away and the few that were missed I removed as soon as I possibly could. I think I am being harshly treated.”

But in spite of describing himself as “disillusioned”, Mr Leonard does plan to repeat the fair in 2018, from November 9 – 11. “It went down so well and we got so much good feedback not just about our fair but about Beverley itself. I really want this top become a regular fixture on the town’s calendar.”

Evidence presented to the court showed the boards had been staked into grass verges on main roads including the A1079 around Market Weighton, Pocklington and Beverley, the A164 around Skidby, Cottingham, Anlaby and Willerby, and on the A165 at Long Riston and Brandesburton, as well as in Cherry Burton and Walkington.

Following the case, East Riding Council issued a reminder to residents and businesses that it is a criminal offence under the Highways Act 1980 to place a
sign on highways land without the council’s permission. They said unauthorised advertising placed on land next to roads can be an obstruction, nuisance or danger to motorists, and may even contribute to road accidents due to distraction.

The council, it said, can issue a £75 fixed penalty notice for each illegal sign or poster. And if a case is heard in court anyone found guilty of fly-posting could be
fined up to £2,500. The council may also remove all signs and the costs incurred can be recovered from the person responsible.

Mike Featherby, head of streetscene services at the council, said: “We will act to investigate any signs put up on the highway without permission as they could be a hazard to motorists.”