By Hugo Harris
Durham County Council has initiated a consultation that could result in the banning of “To Let” boards outside Durham’s houses.
A voluntary landlord scheme was launched in 2009 with the aim of reducing the number of boards in Durham by curbing the extent landlords could advertise to one board per street.
After recent breaches in the scheme’s code, the council is now asking the public whether it believes restrictions should be strengthened or an outright ban should be imposed.
The latter move, which would not sanction the erection of any “To Let” boards within Durham would have ‘‘the most positive impact on the character and appearance of the historic city,” according to the council. The former option would allow ‘proportionate advertising’ but also enable the formal enforcement of regulations which would limit the number of and times at which the boards could be displayed.
Councillor Neil Foster alluded to the fact landlords and letting agents desire to advertise to students led to the calls for a public consultation on the issue:
“While we understand and appreciate the need for landlords to market their properties, this has to be balanced against the impact that letting boards can have on our beautiful and historic city. We also believe that “To Let” boards are a minor part of the modern marketing strategy and that most students will locate property via the internet.”
Dawn Piria from JW Wood Student Lettings in Durham opposes Durham County Council initiatives, stating in an interview with ITV, “the way advertising is, no-one would like to see an outright ban.”
She later added that “if there’s an outright ban I think there will be people that will find ways around advertising within a property”. JW Wood’s website currently promises to ‘prominently display’ the property of letting clients ‘to attract potential tenants’.
Similar ideas to restrict the number of “To Let” signs in predominantly student areas are being debated in six other university towns and cities of Brighton, Liverpool, Belfast, Leicester, Newcastle, and London.
The closing date for comments to Durham County Council is Friday 17 February.
Photograph: WikiMedia Commons