When is a banner not a banner? Apparently when it is permanent
Much of Marlborough Town Council's Full Council meeting on Monday (March 7) was taken up with a discussion on banners. Not, of course, trade union banners or demonstrators' banners or even military banners.
This somewhat cross debate began over a banner pinned to the wall (for clarity, the outside wall) of Marlborough Rugby Football Club's clubhouse - the club leases the land from the town council and must ask council's permission for such things.
In fact the club's banner itself was almost lost in an archane debate over procedure.
Are you sitting comfortably?
In December Full Council had "agreed in principle subject to the details being submitted to the appropriate Committee" that the club could place "a recruitment banner on the side of the clubhouse facing the road".
On February 8 the Council's Amenities and Open Spaces Committee (A&OSC) duly considered this and by a single vote rejected the Club's request.
The trouble with the banner - as everyone driving up Frees Avenue must surely have noticed - is that it faces not just the road but also the Common. The Common is beautiful therefore the banner must go.
At Monday's Full Council meeting Councillors Hall and Fogg called in this committee decision for further discussion. Councillor Fogg declared that it was not in the remit of the A&OSC to decide the banner should be taken down: "I can't see the process - I don't think this decision can be reversed in this way. On this occasion what is being proposed is out of order."
The Town Mayor, Councillor Margaret Rose countered: "This actually overlooks the Common - it's an advertisement. I feel we are becoming a town of banners."
Councillor Dobson then considered whether a banner could ever be permanent - normal planning permission for such banners is for 28 days. If the recruitment appeal was on a board fixed to the wall, they would need planning permission. This, he said, was using a banner to skirt round planning procedures.
He proposed allowing them to put the banner up for "Any 28 days in a period - so we can say yes we're encouraging them."
It was finally agreed that the banner could stay while the Town Clerk sent the issue to Wiltshire Council's planning department for advice and/or a ruling.
Amidst all this, there was also discussion of two 3D signs on the grass in front of the clubhouse - and, whisper it, just about visible from some parts of the common - advertising two of the Club's sponsors. (And here I need to declare an interest: Marlborough News Online is also a sponsor of Marlborough RFC.)
Luckily, this was too much for councillors and the two offending advertisements slipped over the line for an unopposed try.
We must however point out that the Council's 'banner police' seem to missed the sign on a tree close to the clubhouse that asks for information about the whereabouts of two lost dogs. It looks somewhat - er - dog-eared and certainly could not claim 'permanence', but why oh why is it allowed to be there - so close as it is to the Common?
One of the great advantages of the town having one of the widest high streets in the kingdom (or perhaps the widest - it depends on what you measure and from where to where) is that it is too wide to string banners across. Many other high streets are enlivened by banners strung across them telling people what is going on in their town.
However, if any other, narrower streets in Marlborough had banners strung across the road, councillors would be queuing up to use the local defibrillators. Some Marlborough councillors are, it seems, shy about publicity and like to keep things to themselves.
The answer is of course to enter your event in Marlborough News Online's ‘What's On’ calendar - or, if recruiting, buy a Job Advert - or, if you are really pushing the boat out, you can buy a 'banner advert' in one of MNO's sections.