A prime pedestrianised shopping street will soon become clutter-free under new plans which have been applauded by a blindness charity.
Worthing Borough Council had received a number of complaints from shoppers and wheelchair users that they were unable to get around due to the amount of street furniture in the town centre.
As a result, businesses will now have to apply for a licence to place items like A-boards and outdoor seating in the public highway.
The first area to be monitored will be Warwick Street, starting from tomorrow. If the pilot scheme is a success, it could gradually rolled out into other areas in the town.
Diane Guest, Worthing Borough 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 but also improving the vibrancy of our town centre.
“However, this cannot be done without thought to the very people that use the shops. Cluttered streets can cause a range of problems, especially to those with pushchairs, the visually impaired and those with limited mobility.
“At best, too much street furniture can be an inconvenience; at worst, it can be perilous, acting as trip hazards and blocking people’s views of oncoming traffic.
“This self-funding licence scheme will ensure a healthy balance between creating a vibrant town centre and ensuring accessibility for everyone.”
The powers to license street furniture used to belong to West Sussex County Council. But the scheme was not widely promoted or enforced, meaning just two firms in Worthing paid for permission to place items on the highway.
Worthing Borough Council took on the powers earlier this year – and have pledged to work with businesses to ensure that the scheme is priced and enforced fairly.
Costs for the first year for an advertising board will start from £106.50 – or just over £2 a week – with the fee dropping to £80.50 in the second. Prices for tables and chairs are more expensive and calculated on the area used.
Teams from the council have contacted every business in the street to make sure they are aware of the changes and offered to meet with them to talk through the scheme.
Regular compliance checks will be carried out and businesses that fail to pay for a licence could be fined up to £1,000.
The scheme is self-funding, with all of the monies raised covering the administration costs.
The move has received the backing from key charities.
Terri Dowty, Royal National Institute of Blind People regional campaigns officer, said: “We congratulate Worthing Borough Council on this initiative.
“Street furniture presents blind and partially sighted pedestrians with problems that are not always apparent to other people, and these can turn pavements into an obstacle course.
“We commend the council’s determined commitment to ensuring an accessible environment for all.”