Shopkeepers fight back over fines for illegal A-boards
THREE shops have been prosecuted for having illegal A-boards outside their businesses. The case comes after a council crackdown.
Akkshy News and Central Stores, both in St Paul's Road, and Windyridge Stores in Windyridge Road were all fined at Cheltenham Magistrates Court for not having licenses.
Akkshy News was fined £120, with £20 victim surcharge and ordered to pay the council's costs of £110.
The other two shops were each fined £200, with £20 victim surcharge, and told to pay the council's costs of £110.
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But shopkeepers have fought back against the council's hardline.
Owner of Akkshy News, Thavanefan Thieventhiran, said: "I took over the shop in April and they wrote to me then saying about it, but I was really busy and the next thing I know I had a letter saying I was being taken to court.
"I think I should have been given more warnings. There are other businesses on this road that have A-boards that haven't been prosecuted; I just think it is all about the council making money."
Al Karim, manager of Central Stores, said he would be appealing the decision.
But the St Paul's Road shops are unlikely to get permission for an A-board because they are in a Conservation area.
He said: "I do feel victimised because I bought the A-board in a few months ago. There are other businesses on this road which have them and it does not make sense. It should be one rule and it should apply to everyone."
The council has defended its stance. Sarah Hughes, community protection officer, said: "We have been in touch with all of the premises in St Paul's Road, Swindon Road, Windyridge shops, and St Marks which display boards without permission. We are aware there are some outstanding cases and investigations are under way to address them."
The council said it wrote to the businesses and gave them 14 days to remove the boards before going to court.
It also sent a letter to Windyridge Stores, which is not in a conservation area, with an application pack for a license.
Coun Garth Barnes, chairman of the licensing committee, said prosecution is always an absolute last resort. He said: "We will always try to find a resolution with premises. In this instance we exhausted all avenues and we were left with no choice but to seek a prosecution. We are clamping down on the misuse of A-Boards and these three cases show that we will take action when needed."
Since the implementation of the A-board policy in April the council has visited 95 premises. About 83 businesses have either removed their street advertising or applied for consent, with the remaining 12 cases being investigated.
No one from Windyridge Stores was available for comment.