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Category Archives: News and politics

The installation of Flags/banners and Bracket Mounts on properties within Market Street, Hexham, Northumberland.

An open letter to:

Mr R Stewart,
Senior Monitoring and Enforcement Officer,
Planning Department,
Old Grammar School,
Hallgate,
Hexham.

The specific question asked in my letter of 22 April 2010 was concerning the bracket mount attached to 4a Market Street, Hexham, which is not the subject of any planning application. I fail to see why the council would await any decision relating to any other bracket mounts, before taking action against the one attached at this address. Either an application should be made for listed buildings consent or the bracket should be removed.

The advertising banners/flags have been in position for almost a year. Many were not reinstated in January 2010. I have been informed that this was because the occupiers of those business had no wish to breach regulations and so be liable to prosecution.

Businesses which chose to reinstate the banners after removal of the Christmas trees did so in the culpable knowledge that doing so was illegal.

Initially the authorities slow response to my complaint was due to a high workload. Subsequently the decision not to proceed with any enforcement action was due to the ‘intense media scrutiny’ the issue had received. Next the decision to allow the advertising banners to remain was as a result of an agreement reached with traders on November 3rd 2009. However, no action was forthcoming when traders reneged on this agreement in January 2010. Then no action was taken because the planning department had received retrospective applications for the associated bracket mounts from traders. Now the situation remains ongoing due to errors with these applications.

The council should be reminded that these applications are for the affixing of bracket/mounts and not for the display of advertising banner/flags.

You describe the flag display as being ‘an integral aspect of the presence of the mounts’. This surprises me. I would expect the applicants to claim that these advertising banners are vital and fundamental, not the planning authority. This view prejudges applications yet to be made. To sugest that no enforcement action is being taken, further to your letter of 7 October 2009, because council is awaiting the outcome of the bracket/mount applications is puzzling.

Some advertising banners continue to be displayed despite the traders being well aware that doing so is an offence. They have wilfully continued to breach regulations and the law. They have taken a rebellious stance when contacted concerning this issue. The local authority has a duty to enforce building regulations. Unauthorised works to a listed building and the unauthorised display of advertisements may involve a criminal offence so this is no trivial matter. No applications have been made concerning the display of advertising banners along Market Street, indeed why would traders bother to make applications if these flags are being allowed to remain illegally without any action being taken against them? Are local planning authorities not required to exercise their powers under the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) (England) Regulations 2007?

It is accepted that the authority must consider commercial issues and business development, but it should also take into account the determined and continuing disregard for legislation shown by members of the Market Street Traders Association.

While agreeing that the flag display would appear to be an integral aspect of the flag pole mount applications, is important to remember also that in some instances these mounts were fitted illegally, and remain in breach of legislation until retrospective permission is granted. It is important to remember that these applications also stressed that the primary purpose of the mounts is for the display of Christmas trees, not advertising banners.

I would recommend any individual or group within Tynedale wishing to display advertising or promotional flags/banners, to do so without first seeking the relevant permissions from the planning authority. Simply install them illegally. It takes such a long time for council to respond, why ask first? No advantage in that.

Following a recent conversation with an officer from Northumbria Police concerning my communication with you (Mary Richard of Gaia) of October 16th, 2009, and with reference to the subsequent unassociated acts of vandalism to your premises, I feel that a number of important points need to be made.

Firstly, I must apologize if you feel that the e-mail sent to you on October 16th was in any way threatening or aggressive. You can also be assured that I have at no point undertaken any acts of revenge or vandalism against yourself or your business. I have openly broadcast my views on this matter to yourself, other Market Street traders and the local authority. Indeed, the e mail sent to you and others was also forwarded to the Hexham Courant and was published by them, verbatim, in their October 30th edition. Indeed, I also expressed my concerns and opinions to a Mrs Chapman in a telephone conversation on October 27th. This dialogue also touched on how the matter could be resolved.

However, I should remind you that it is yourself who has acted illegally in this matter, attaching  flag poles and banners to buildings in contravention of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservations Areas) Act 1990 and the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) (England) Regulations 2007, not I.

I am in possession of a letter from Mr Stewart, the Senior Monitoring and Enforcement Officer, which states that (he) “has received complaints from both local residents and traders…” relating to this issue. Therefore I am not the only Market Street resident to have made a complaint over this issue. Also some traders within the town also appear to be unhappy with these instillations.

If the vandalism of your property is associated with this problem then I would imagine that one of these other complainants could be responsible.

If you had approached us prior to these banners being installed we could, in our own case, have avoided this issue entirely. If the flag had simply been fixed to the bracket immediately to the right of the one currently being used, the offending banner would not have been visible from within the property.

Please be assured that I will express my opinions if I feel it appropriate to do so, I shall complain to the regulatory authority if I feel it appropriate to do so, I will object to something if I think it is wrong, but I would not resort to underhand petty vandalism as an act of small minded revenge.