Removal of sale sign was unnecessary interference

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What is it about local councils and boot sales? For the second time this month, we feel ourselves forced to leap to the defence of those who would sell bric-a-brac but find themselves up against overpowering and unnecessary officialdom.

First it was the sea cadet fundraisers who were effectively turfed off Castle Field, accused of giving Southsea an air of tattiness, and who found that an alternative venue failed to attract the crowds they desperately need to keep the cash flowing in.

Now it’s the unwelcome and unhelpful interference of a local councillor in a boot sale organised to raise funds for another worthwhile cause, Macmillan Cancer Support. Cllr Roger Price was straight on the phone to Hampshire County Council, telling tales on the charity after he spotted that organisers had erected a sign on a roundabout at Portchester, pointing people to the venue.

Of course, the Highways Act regulates roadside signs.

As it happens, the charity had taken the trouble to contact the council beforehand and believed it had a verbal assurance that the sign pointing traffic in the right direction was acceptable.

So it should have been. We accept that flagrant breaches of the law need to be dealt with, especially perhaps when they involve advertising for commercial profit.

But Roger Price is wrong to say there is no difference between a charity and a business. Rather than take such a blinkered ‘rules is rules’ stance, he and the county council should have viewed the issue with pragmatism and a little more common sense.

There was nothing wrong with the boot sale sign and nothing unusual about it either.

We see many signs on the side of roads pointing people to boot sales and they don’t seem to fall foul of kerbside zealots.

In this case, Macmillan Cancer Support believes it lost more than £300 in takings.

Perhaps, having presumably expended considerable effort on having the ‘offending’ sign removed, Cllr Price might like to now concentrate on devising ways in which he could help the charity recoup that loss.