Fairtrade sign goes in red tape row

Witney Gazette: From left, Church minister Jason Boyd with Witney Area Fairtrade Action Group members Don Mason, Mahalla Mason and Wendy Maddison, who are unhappy that they have now had to take down the Fairtrade sign. From left, Church minister Jason Boyd with Witney Area Fairtrade Action Group members Don Mason, Mahalla Mason and Wendy Maddison, who are unhappy that they have now had to take down the Fairtrade sign.

A SIGN telling people Witney is a Fairtrade town has been taken down after volunteers were told it breached planning laws.

The Welch Way sign will now not be replaced because West Oxfordshire District Council would charge £385 administration costs.

Witney was the 1,000th place in the world to bear the status, meaning firms stock products which give a ‘fair’ deal to Third World producers.

Witney Area Fairtrade Action Group put the ‘Witney Fairtrade Town’ sign on the Congregational Church in August.

But members then got a letter from the council saying it would need consent under advertising regulations.

It was removed this month, a day after the letter was received.

The town was granted the status in 2011 after a three-year campaign and the sign was the only indication of the status in Witney.

Fairtrade group member Don Mason said he understood the council acted after a member of the public complained. The council was unable to confirm this as we went to press.

He said: “A lot of people have welcomed this sign and it is just because of one sad person that we have had to take this down.

“The church was very supportive of it.” Mahalla Mason, his wife, added: “We checked everything on the council’s website before we put this up and didn’t think that we broke any planning rules.

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“The building isn’t listed, as it is only about ten years old.”

The group was told the sign was “advertising” and is not related to the building to which it is fixed.

Group member Wendy Maddison said: “We would need £385 to apply for formal planning permission which we, as a group, do not have.

“And even if we did there is no guarantee we would get it.”

Council spokeswoman Carys Davies said: “It appears that this sign requires the council’s consent under Advertisement Regulations for which there is a prescribed fee.

“However, we are looking further into the matter and will advise the relevant parties of the outcome.”

To gain Fairtrade status, a town must get the support of local groups, the council and press, form an action group and get businesses to stock Fairtrade products.

Oxford, Bicester, Banbury, Abingdon-on-Thames, Faringdon, Grove, Henley-on-Thames, Kennington, and Shrivenham and Watchfield also have Fairtrade status.

Comments (6)

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11:21am Fri 25 Oct 13

Marco00 says...

There must be some VERY sad people in Witney if someone objects to this sign. Get a life dear complainer, there must, nay are, much more important things in this world for you to point your moaning instincts at....
There must be some VERY sad people in Witney if someone objects to this sign. Get a life dear complainer, there must, nay are, much more important things in this world for you to point your moaning instincts at.... Marco00
  • Score: -53

3:46pm Fri 25 Oct 13

DEnright says...

It is such a shame that people are so petty. It would be great to see the Council supporting Fairtrade status, and complaining at the injusctice of world trade. I'm a local councillor and would welcome any ideas to promote Fairtrade in our town and district.
It is such a shame that people are so petty. It would be great to see the Council supporting Fairtrade status, and complaining at the injusctice of world trade. I'm a local councillor and would welcome any ideas to promote Fairtrade in our town and district. DEnright
  • Score: 15

4:52pm Fri 25 Oct 13

Rob Barton says...

But in fairness the Council is supportive of Fair Trade, and I was one of the Town Councillors that negotiated with WAFTAG for it to be so. This is a totally different issue, and a planning specific issue, if you haven't permission to put things up in public places you need to get it. Rules is Rules!
But in fairness the Council is supportive of Fair Trade, and I was one of the Town Councillors that negotiated with WAFTAG for it to be so. This is a totally different issue, and a planning specific issue, if you haven't permission to put things up in public places you need to get it. Rules is Rules! Rob Barton
  • Score: -5

6:47pm Fri 25 Oct 13

Ruth Smith says...

What is is advertising?
What is is advertising? Ruth Smith
  • Score: 5

10:05pm Sat 26 Oct 13

Colincarritt says...

No doubt Carys Davies from WODC is only trying to be even-handed, but she should look around the roads and streets of West Oxfordshire and far and wide. Information signs, tourism signs, direction signs, warning signs are everywhere. Many are not officially recognised signs under the statutory regulations, but Authorities recognise that they serve a valuable public service and encourage or, at worst, tolerate them. It's the same for Fairtrade signs. Fairtrade is not some radical extremist tendency of the "left". Fairtrade is mainstream and supported by the majority of public and major retail institutions. The public are entitled to know that Witney is a Fairtrade town that encourages sustainability in an international context. And in turn, international sustainability provides the roots for international security. So it's in all our interests to encourage Fairtrade and not to put obstacles in the way.

Colin Carritt
Woodstock Town Councillor
No doubt Carys Davies from WODC is only trying to be even-handed, but she should look around the roads and streets of West Oxfordshire and far and wide. Information signs, tourism signs, direction signs, warning signs are everywhere. Many are not officially recognised signs under the statutory regulations, but Authorities recognise that they serve a valuable public service and encourage or, at worst, tolerate them. It's the same for Fairtrade signs. Fairtrade is not some radical extremist tendency of the "left". Fairtrade is mainstream and supported by the majority of public and major retail institutions. The public are entitled to know that Witney is a Fairtrade town that encourages sustainability in an international context. And in turn, international sustainability provides the roots for international security. So it's in all our interests to encourage Fairtrade and not to put obstacles in the way. Colin Carritt Woodstock Town Councillor Colincarritt
  • Score: 8

10:17am Mon 28 Oct 13

MStJNi says...

I'm not clear on what basis the sign is regarded as "advertising." A sign saying that Witney is a Fairtrade Town simply indicates that many in Witney - including the Council - have chosen to show support for a system that ensures that producers receive a fair price for their goods. It doesn't advertise particular goods or services. I suppose that technically it could be regarded as "advertising" the town's ethical credentials, but this seems to be stretching definitions somewhat.

I would suspect, moreover, that the sign is indeed related to the building to which it is affixed: the Witney churches have been among the many institutions in the town whose support was essential for the Fairtrade Town bid. If the church was part of the bid, surely it is entitled to be part of the proclamation of success?
I'm not clear on what basis the sign is regarded as "advertising." A sign saying that Witney is a Fairtrade Town simply indicates that many in Witney - including the Council - have chosen to show support for a system that ensures that producers receive a fair price for their goods. It doesn't advertise particular goods or services. I suppose that technically it could be regarded as "advertising" the town's ethical credentials, but this seems to be stretching definitions somewhat. I would suspect, moreover, that the sign is indeed related to the building to which it is affixed: the Witney churches have been among the many institutions in the town whose support was essential for the Fairtrade Town bid. If the church was part of the bid, surely it is entitled to be part of the proclamation of success? MStJNi
  • Score: 9

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