Street clutter pilot scheme to be expanded

Access in Warwick Street has greatly improved since all but three businesses signed up to the self-funding licence scheme
Access in Warwick Street has greatly improved since all but three businesses signed up to the self-funding licence scheme

A trial street clutter scheme in Worthing town centre has been hailed a success.

Traders have been working with Worthing Borough Council to improve accessibility in Warwick Street by reducing the number of tables, chairs and A-boards placed outside.

Before the pilot scheme was launched in September due to complaints from shoppers and wheelchair users

Before the pilot scheme was launched in September due to complaints from shoppers and wheelchair users

The licensing pilot introduced in September has led to a big reduction in street furniture but the work continues and a consultation with sight support experts is planned for Tuesday from midday to 2pm.

Brian Butcher, RNIB volunteer campaign co-ordinator, and Frances Pritchard, HQ manager at Sight Support Worthing, have personally invited more than 40 businesses to spend ten minutes experiencing what it is like for a blind or visually-impaired person to walk along the street.

The charities, along with Guide Dogs and 4Sight Vision Support, are seeking to have a roughly 7ft-wide, clear walkway the length of the street and are working with traders to raise awareness of their reasons.

Brian said: "Overall, we were met with positive responses and a genuine desire to help. We are creating a roll of honour for businesses that take part."

The council launched the pilot scheme following complaints from shoppers and wheelchair users.

Businesses were asked to apply for a licence to place items like A-boards and outdoor seating in the pedestrianised street and with all but three signed up to the self-funding scheme, access to the pedestrianised street has greatly improved.

The council has made it clear all businesses that wish to place items outside will be expected to comply with the new licence scheme, which will be rolled out across the town in the spring.

Diane Guest, the council's executive member for environment, said: “I know as a local business owner how important items like A-boards and outdoor eating areas play in boosting trade and improving the vibrancy of our town centre.

“However, this cannot be done without thought to the very people that use the shops.

“While this scheme has not been universally popular, the result has been overwhelmingly positive - not only improving the appearance to one of the town’s major shopping streets but making it a lot easier for everyone to access it.

“It’s disappointing that a small number of firms still refuse to sign up to the scheme, which gives us no option but to enforce the laws.

“However, we will be rolling the scheme out across the town from March onwards and are already beginning to receive unprompted applications from new businesses to the area.”

Enforcement action is being considered against firms without a licence, meaning the removal of items placed in the street and potential fines of up to £1,000.

The powers to licence street furniture used to belong to West Sussex County Council but the scheme was not widely promoted or enforced, meaning just two firms in the whole of town paid for permission to place items on the highway.

Worthing Borough Council took on the powers earlier this year and pledged to work with businesses to ensure the scheme was priced and enforced fairly.

Costs for the first year for an advertising board will start from £106.50, with the fee dropping to £80.50 in the second year. Prices for tables and chairs are more expensive and calculated on the amount of highway used.

The council said scheme is entirely self-funding with all of the monies raised covering the administration costs.