BUSINESSES have hit out at council bosses who are set to ban advertising boards in Colchester town centre.

The ban is part of a controversial public spaces protection order which also aims to stop aggressive town centre begging and curtail any antisocial behaviour.

Mike Lilley, Colchester councillor responsible for public safety, said businesses will be given a two-week grace period after the order comes into effect on October 23.

However, if the boards continue to be used, they will be seized.

But business owners have sounded a warning, saying the policy is at risk of hitting shops hard.

Sam Richfield, who runs the Vapers Lounge, in Crouch Street, said: “It really feels like another thing the council is using to attack businesses.

“Why are we talking about a blanket ban? Not every business is putting two or three boards out on the footpath.

“I have one here and in the 18 months I have been here, just one person has tripped into it and that was because she had her head buried in her phone.”

He added: “Could they not take a much more personal approach?

“What is causing a problem in one part of town isn’t necessarily a problem in every part of the town.

“For me, and I’m sure it’s the same for a lot of business owners, having the board out there tells the public I am open.

“It’s a free way of advertising a business and they’re taking that away.

It is not the first time Mr Richfield has been at odds with the council, after he was told he could not install a roller shutter to protect his business.

He added: “I am seriously considering moving to another town because it’s obvious now this council is just stupid.”

Rob Dunn, who runs The Den vegan cafe, also in Crouch Street, also criticised the new policy, saying it will could have a dramatic effect on more niche businesses.

He said: “We are a vegan cafe but there is no way we can get everything we want to say on our front.

“For us, the board is so important - it is essential for passing trade.

“Someone might be coming along and see that we use, for example, plant-based milk on the A-board and come in because they didn’t think they could have a coffee.

“It’s essential to how we get our message across.

“For me, it is 100 per cent important not only to tell people what we serve but also that we are open.

“Maybe the council should be a bit more personal about these things.”

Mr Lilley has stated the ban is to help blind and disabled people to navigate the town centre. He hopes it could lead to more people opting to use the town.

No boards will be seized until after November 6.