ESTATE agents who transform whole neighbourhoods into ‘eyesores’ by putting up scores of sales or lettings boards and leave them in place for weeks or months may have their signs removed and banned in parts of the town as part of tough action being considered by Reading Borough Council.
High levels of student accommodation and shared properties make certain parts of Reading a hotspot for unscrupulous estate or lettings agents who flood streets with ‘to let’ or ‘for sale’ boards. Some boards are left in place far longer than necessary and sometimes boards are on display to attract potential student tenants well in advance of the next academic year.
Both of these things have the effect of spoiling the appearance of some of the town’s streets and conservation areas, much to the annoyance of local residents.
Signs also contravene the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) Regulations 2007 where they are left in place longer than allowed by the Regulations, leaving estate agents at risk of prosecution.
The Council wrote to estate and lettings agents in June 2009 and December 2011 asking them to take action, but those requests have failed. The Council is now writing to estate and lettings agents again, this time with a warning that a range of tough measures are being considered by Reading Borough Council. These include:
• enforcement action including prosecution • removal of illegal signs • a Direction under Regulation 7 of the Advertisement Regulations which would remove the right to display agents’ boards in designated areas of Reading .
Tony Page, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Member for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, said:
“Residents in parts of Reading are quite rightly angry about estate agents who believe they are above the law and think they can flout existing regulations. It is something the Council is regularly lobbied on by residents and it is unfortunate that previous requests by the Council have been ignored. As such there are now a number of options we as a Council are considering and that includes forcibly removing the offending signs and banning them from designated areas.
“Before any decisions are made however, I am inviting representative of lettings and estate agents to attend a meeting next month where this important issue can be discussed further.”
The meeting will take place in the Council Chamber at the Civic Offices at 10.30am on Thursday 20 March. Estate or letting agents interested in attending are being asked to email Cllr Page direct at firstname.lastname@example.org to confirm attendance.