Tuesday saw the East Highways Division of Cambridgeshire County Council sanction a snatch squad to enter the City Centre and forcibly remove, without warning, the street advertising boards of Ely’s independent traders and then demand a ransom of Â£20 per board for their safe return, it is believed the boards are being held somewhere in Witchford.
One trader who wished to remain anonymous, for fear of reprisal said: ‘I have had so many people coming into my shop saying they wouldn’t have known it was here unless they had seen the advertising board’
The CCC defended the move saying it gave traders plenty of warning and is meeting a Government directive given to every local authority across the country to destroy any hope independent traders have of making their business a success.
A spokesman for the CCC, admitted the order was given to retaliate against the activists, seen – by many – as martyrs in a City that does very little to promote independent traders.
However, the authorinazi stated: ‘We really do want to see businesses do well and urge anybody who wants to advertise to contact his or her local planning authority for advice about how to do this legally.’
When pushed on how ‘legal’ signs were safer the spokesman declined to comment.
He continued: ‘Every year we receive phone calls from people who have tripped or walked into signs put out on footways illegally and the CCC has a duty to ensure footways are kept safe for pedestrians. Illegal signs are a safety issue as they create hazards and distract drivers and can cause confusion’.
When pushed on how legal signs were safer the spokesman declined to comment.
Despite heightend tensions between the independent traders and the CCC it is hoped an agreement will be reached soon that will benefit all involved.