Overabundance of signs of times causing consternation in Melrose

An A-frame board outside the King's Arms in Melrose.
An A-frame board outside the King's Arms in Melrose.

Concerns have been raised that a “plague” of signs outside businesses in Melrose is blighting the appearance of the town and making it difficult for people to negotiate its streets.

Melrose Community Council vice-chairman Valerie Miller told its meeting last week that she is very uneasy about the amount of signage in the town.

“There’s signs on walls and pavements, sandwich boards and promotions,” she said.

“We’re becoming absolutely choked by them.

“We have more than a proliferation – it is a plague.”

Mrs Miller told the meeting, held in the Ormiston Institute last Wednesday, that an A-frame board outside the newly-reopened King’s Arms hotel in High Street was the biggest sandwich board she had ever seen.

“It’s absurd,” she said. “Dalgetty’s have two standing boards next to each other outside their shop, and I counted seven signs in the Wynd.

“We have them outside businesses, but we also have them advertising other businesses in other areas of the town.

“There’s a cluster near the antique shop outside Palmer Place which is illegally chained to a road sign.”

Mrs Miller claims some businesses are ignoring Scottish Borders Council’s guidelines governing promotional signage by not bringing signs in at night.

“The guidelines are not strict – they are reasonable – but there’s no point having a guideline that is not being enforced,” she said.

Community council chairman William Windram said it is only an issue if signage is causing an obstruction.

“There’s not much that can be done unless there are particular signs that are problematic to traffic on the pavement,” he said.

“The problem is that then the little chairs outside the cafes go. You can’t have one rule because you don’t like a particular sign. It can’t be one rule for one and another for others.

“We want people to run businesses and advertise them well – we want them to be a success – so it’s very hard.

“I have to say in Bank Street in Gala it’s exactly the same.”

Robin Chisholm said that the community council should be grateful that business is booming in the town.

“Maybe we should be looking at it from the other side and saying aren’t we lucky that all these shops are taken and encouraging people to come here and spend money here? It’s a fine line.” he said.

Graham Barker said: “I agree with Robin that it’s good to have the shops full, but there is a saturation point.

“I do object when there is more than one sandwich board per shop.

“The pavement is part of the roads department. If something is causing an obstruction, roads can address it.”

A Scottish Borders Council spokesman said: “Businesses are required to seek the permission of the roads authority to erect signs on footpaths.

“However, we tolerate A-frame signage on footpaths where these are located immediately outside the premises, at the rear of the footpath and do not cause an obstruction or are detrimental to the visual amenity of the area.”

Rob Reeley, manager of the King’s Arms, said that following a long period of closure and recent refurbishment, it is essential that the pub takes every opportunity to publicise the fact it has reopened.

“The King’s had become something of an eyesore in the town, and I have no doubt that the locals will be pleased to see that the King’s is back,” he said.

“We have deliberately ensured that our A-board is positioned between the large planters that are already situated on most pavements in Melrose in order that we do not cause any unnecessary obstruction to anyone passing by.

“Clearly Melrose is a great town with an enviable range of shops and businesses that is perhaps missing from many high streets today.

“If Costa, Starbucks, Wetherspoon’s or TK Maxx were to open in Melrose, their brand names would be sufficient to drive footfall.

“However, in my view, small local offers that are not easily recognisable must be allowed and encouraged to spread their varying messages to both locals and tourists.”