STEPS may be taken to defuse the row over attempts by highway chiefs to stop traders using advertising boards on pavements outside their premises.
Letters have been delivered to businesses in Pickering telling them to clear the A-boards from the pavements or face legal action.
But many traders are anxious this could be the first step before they are told to remove other display goods from the pavements as well.
Now, Cllr Joan Lovejoy, the mayor of Pickering, is suggesting one way would be to hold a meeting between the traders and highway bosses with the town council acting as a go-between.
She said: “I can understand why businesses want to advertise or promote themselves but the boards are becoming excessive and the pavements have become hazardous.
“We have to think about the people walking along them, especially the elderly along the narrow pavements.
“It all needs tidying up sensibly. There is a distinction between signs hanging up outside and those actually obstructing the pavement.”
Letters from Richard Marr, the area highways manager, were delivered recently to a number of shops in the town.
But when the Mercury visited the town centre last week some boards had been taken in while others were still outside.
Mr Marr’s letter described A-boards as “illegal” if they are on the public highway.
“Advertising in the highway is a widespread problem across the county obstructing footways and potentially causing problems for the visually impaired,” it says.
“The problem in Pickering has grown to such a size recently that I need to take action before someone is injured,” says Mr Marr, adding that traders could discuss any signage with Ryedale Council.
He warns that if they continued to place signs on the pavement they could be taken away to a county council depot – which might not be the nearest one to them – but be retrieved within 28 days at £25 each.
Mr Marr adds that repeated offenders could face legal proceedings.
Dawn Harrison, who took over a sandwich shop in Birdgate just under a year ago, said she would like to meet Mr Marr.
“It is quite ridiculous. I was told the board outside my place meant people could not get two wheelchairs past it. Well you could not anyway even if it was not there. They should be doing something about the illegal parking,” she said.
Ian Peacock, who runs the Chocolate Shop, said: “I have been here six years with boards out and there have been no complaints.They help draw attention to your business. What about plant pots that people put outside their own houses. The boards are part of the character of little market towns like ours.”
Ali Burnett, whose businesses in Birdgate are closing, said: “A ban is a bit silly. It is badly timed when people are trying to get through a recession.”
Wendy Dales of Dales Florists in the Market Place, which also has plants and flowers outside, said: “I don’t think there is a problem with having signs because most footpaths are quite adequate.”
Alan Danby, who has run Morlands newsagents in Market Place for more than 30 years, said: “We have never had any problems or complaints from the public. Boards outside a newsagent are traditional and part of the scene.”
One business owner, who did not wish to be named, was worried they would eventually have to clear the pavements of their display goods, adding “as long as they are put out sensibly the goods and flowers add colour to the scene.”