Hampstead businesses ordered to remove ice-cream advertising board ‘street clutter’

Ghassan Akar, owner of Tania's of Hampstead, and Pravia Malviya, owner of Village Newsagents. Pictur

Ghassan Akar, owner of Tania's of Hampstead, and Pravia Malviya, owner of Village Newsagents. Picture: Dieter Perry - Credit: Archant

Camden Council is accused of “bullying” small businesses after ordering owners to remove essential advertising boards and newspaper delivery trollies from the street just days before Christmas – branding them a “danger to mothers, the elderly and the disabled”.

Several independent businesses in Heath Street, Hampstead, were handed a notice last week telling them to get rid of anything obstructing the road’s public highways, or else face a fine.

Village Newsagents was given the warning for displaying an ice-cream advertising board, and for storing trollies used to deliver newspapers to residents every morning outside the shop.

Owner Pravin Malviya said the trollies are “part and parcel” of his livelihood, and that he has never received a complaint about them in his 35 years of running the shop.

The 74-year-old said: “We are trying to survive in these difficult times, it’s ridiculous.

“They can’t bully us like that. It’s because we are small.”

He added that his shop has no basement or storage at the back of the premises to store the trollies and the advertising board.

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The notice was handed to business owners in person by a council employee last week, three days before Christmas. It read: “Your obstruction on the public highway causes not only an inconvenience but also a danger to pedestrians, especially mothers with children and the elderly or disabled.”

The owners have been told to remove the advertising boards and all belongings before early January or the council will take them away and charge them for removal.

Ghassan Akar, owner of Tania’s of Hampstead, in the courtyard of Hampstead Craft and Antique Emporium, was also handed a letter for displaying a sandwich board.

The 62-year-old said: “It’s not a Christmas gift, is it? I don’t feel like it was the right time to do this.”

The Ham&High went to Heath Street to ask pedestrians if they consider the boards and trollies to be an obstruction.

Marika Cobbold, a writer, of Church Row, Hampstead, said: “There’s not a lot of Christmas spirit down at the Town Hall.

“I have walked around the streets of Hampstead for 10 years and I haven’t tripped up on an ice-cream board yet.”

She added: “If Hampstead was flowing with the blood of pensioners from the ice-cream sign, then I would understand.”

Mother-of-one Thora Helgadottir, 35, of Vale of Health, also said the signs and trollies do not cause her any problems when pushing her pram along the street.

However, Farokh Khorooshi, founder of anti-street clutter group Hampstead 2020, said: “I think Camden should be praised for finally taking care of the pedestrian’s rights. Shops are for shopping in, pavements are for waking in and streets are for cars.”

He added: “The amount of street clutter... is a disgrace and a stain on the visual character of Hampstead.”

Cllr Phil Jones, cabinet member for regeneration, transport and planning said: “An increasing number of complaints have been brought to the council’s attention about A-boards and other obstructions on our public footpaths.

“Many local blind and partially sighted people have told me that these obstructions make their lives very difficult.

“The council has a legal obligation to keep footpaths free of such obstructions to allow safe, unhindered access to all users, particularly to our residents and visitors who have visual impairments or mobility issues.”