A-Boards on the pavements are regarded by different stakeholders very differently. The shops and businesses who use them to advertise themselves see them as an inexpensive and a valuable part of their promotional activity. Pedestrians, particularly those with visual and/or mobility challenges and pushchairs, can see them as obstacles to the flow on the high street. Urban designers and those responsible for cleaning and maintaining the public realm regard them as an eyesore and a nuisance. In fact they are probably all these things and more. The real issues come when A-Boards are not controlled, resulting in large numbers clustered at junctions.

Controlling A-Boards through regulatory action is in the hands of the local authority, but many have yet to introduce controls. A control area has to be declared, and then the rules for the display of advertising boards or not, in that area set out. There are essentially two options: a straight ban, or a permit scheme.

Whichever option is chosen, the businesses who have been using A-Boards for years may see the introduction of controls as unfriendly to business. However, where A-Boards have been banned the impact on business has in fact been more positive than negative as it improves the collective trading environment and visitor experience.

Where a permit scheme is used it does generate a small income (e.g. £100 per A-Board per year – cheaper than a small ad in the paper), reduces numbers (max one per business), and stipulates the size, type and colours that can be used. The income is usually set against the cost of enforcement but in some places it has been used to provide communal advertising for the town centre to balance the needs and views of the businesses with the need to keep the streets user friendly.

Examples of current A-Board schemes can be found in Richmond-upon-Thames and the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham.

Whether or not an A-Board is permitted, it is illegal under Highways legislation to attach anything to street furniture including trees and lamp columns. An officer warranted by the local authority can remove it and notify the owner who then has 30 days to collect it prior to disposal. In fact it is often quicker and cheaper to directly return it to the owner with a word of warning about obstructing the highway. Repeat offenders can ultimately be fined.

A non-regulatory tip for controlling A-Boards is to point out, perhaps in a newsletter, that if a member of the public trips or injures themselves on an A-Board the business is potentially liable for significant damages and the associated legal costs. This includes damage to property if an A-Board takes flight on a windy day. The businesses should be advised to check with their insurer who is likely to advise them to remove the A-Board and remove the risk.