BSGA in a spin!
Well, once again the BSGA have really excelled themselves! Their latest flyer (No8, August 2002) which I received with the Sign Directions magazine this week, carried the headline: “Council Officials to Approve New Signs”
The feature was their response to the implication of a recent green paper to move decisions on planning matters (including signs) to a local council level, away from central government.
As I read the feature, which was their leading story, I found myself shaking my head in disbelief at the arrogant, self-opinionated and gung-ho manner with which this body (that purports to represent the whole trade?) was dismissing such an important social topic.
The whole piece has the BSGA playing at both judge and jury. Their remarks question the competence and ability of both local councils and, therefore, local people (who make up those councils) to both know and judge what is best for them, their children and the place in which they live.
Remarks that planning consent for signs would be ‘subject to the whims of local councils’ and ‘the vagaries of a myriad of local policies’ seem to indicate all too clearly the low opinion the BSGA has of those who actually live in the locations where their members signs will be sited…and that includes you!
There are two paragraphs within the feature that basically say the same thing and I’d like to share one of these – it reads:
“Present policy…says that sign application can only be refused on the grounds of public safety or amenity, with little more than a passing reference to the local plan. Under the proposals…individual local plans would become pre-eminent over amenity and public safety issues.”
The first part of this paragraph is arrogant and dismissive of the wants and needs of local people. The later part would have us believe that you and I would reject an application for planning regardless of the public safety issues – which is down-right ludicrous!
When it comes down to whether or not brightly illuminated signs for yet another fast food hut or all-night petrol station should, or should not be given approval – then I think the people who must live under the glare of those signs know more about their impact on everyday life than either those who build them or those who pay for them, neither of whom likely live within a hundred miles.
We’re told that the new proposals would generate the need for ‘specialist planning managers’ and that this would ‘add yet more cost to an overly competitive industry’. Surely, if the same rules apply across the trade, whether dealing with planning at a local or national level – then even though the goal posts may change, they change for everyone concerned and therefore have no effect on the overall competitiveness of the industry.
Besides which, the give-away here is the phrase ‘overly competitive industry’ which is the real problem facing the UK’s largest sign companies more than any planning issue. More and more companies chasing fewer larger contracts and cutting each others throats as they go…and then blaming everyone else – right down to the local villager on the local council who, god forbid, should stand in the way of an ever decreasing margin!
The whole piece goes on and on about ‘the demise of our much loved…policy on sign consent’, the ‘thin end of the wedge’, about ‘how will we be able to advise our clients?’ Hold on!…on that last note, who is it the BSGA represents? – its sign making members or the end-user? Just exactly where do the loyalties of this democratically elected council(?) lie? Is it with their own profit margins or with helping to build a better, stronger sign trade?…you might be forgiven for wondering – when it portrays us all as being ‘overly competitive’?
As a body that, allegedly, represents the Britsh sign trade, the BSGA may seem to be more concerned at times with the wants of its wealthiest members’ customers than it is about such things as it’s paying members, the image the sign trade conveys to the public and the wants and needs of that public regarding signs in their environment?
Historically, many have accused the BSGA of being inward looking and impervious to the needs of the smaller independent sign makers who continue to make up the majority of the UK sign trade. In recent years a new image, a shake-up of its practices and even a different name were seen to herald a new era in the BSGA – one which promised to bring a new enlightened body to the fore…regrettably, if this latest feature is anything to go by, we may find (as many suspect) that it’s all been a lot of spin to counter a falling membership, increase revenues and hide its past!
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