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Kept in the dark over Central Motorway display screen policy

November 10, 2014 8:36 PM
By Greg Stone

LIB DEMS PRESS COUNCIL ON POLICY TOWARDS ELECTRONIC DISPLAY SIGNS

Opposition Lib Dem councillors on Newcastle City Council are pressing the authority for a clear statement on its policy towards large electronic display screens in public locations, after receiving a very unclear reply to a question on policy which the administration refused to put on the official council agenda at last week's meeting.

In recent months, the council has opposed a private company application for a screen at Swan House roundabout, which was subsequently granted at appeal. Yet it has also approved its own applications for a very large screen on the Central Motorway and now at Northumberland Street, with a third screen proposed for the Cradlewell underpass being rejected by the planning committee despite being recommended for approval.

However, attempts by the Lib Dem opposition group to get information about the council's policy and the terms of a partnership the council has entered into with an advertising company have so far been met with evasive and contradictory replies.

Cllr Greg Stone commented:

"We are asking for a clear statement of policy on electronic / digital type display screens in public locations including on busy highways. We would particularly like to know the safety impact assessment tests used to determine whether these screens have an impact on driver safety, and would also like to know the terms of the contract the council has entered into with an advertising company to procure these signs.

The reply to our latest question about the council's policy - which was bizarrely deemed not to be in order for a reply at the council meeting, suggests that "Where an advertisement is displayed on the highway or highway structure (including street furniture) it is controlled by the Highway Control section. Highway Control work within the Technical Services Directorate and operate a zero tolerance policy in the city centre in relation to advertising boards and anything so deposited on the highway that is causing an obstruction".

This being the case, we are at a loss to understand how the council appears to have set this practice aside for an enormous digital screen on the Central Motorway. We are concerned that the council seems to be disregarding its own policy on advertising on the highway and seems to be pursuing a lack of clarity and consistency on planning decisions of this type, with several different decisions recently. The council needs to clearly state its policy in order to avoid the perception it is bending the rules to bring in additional revenue."

The full text of Cllr Sone's question :

Written question 2 to Councillor Bell from Councillor Stone
Could the Cabinet Member advise what is the council's current planning and enforcement policy on
i) A-frames,
ii) vinyl or similar temporary signage,
iii) advertising banners, and
iv) electronic display signs,
and what enforcement action, if any, is being taken in respect of the proliferation of such signs in many parts of the city?
Response to written question 2
The Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) (England) Regulations 2007 controls the display of advertisements. The Regulations specify those advertisements which may be displayed without the consent of the Local Planning Authority and this includes, subject to certain criteria, advertisements such as A-frames, vinyl or similar temporary signage, advertising banners and electronic display signs. Where consent is required and an application is submitted this will be considered in accordance with saved policies of the Unitary Development Plan and the National Planning Policy Framework.
Where consent is required and has not been obtained then enforcement action may be considered. The Local Planning Authority may request the submission of an application or the removal of the advertisement. If a breach is not resolved voluntarily and it is deemed appropriate then formal proceedings may be instigated.
The majority of investigations by the Planning Enforcement Team into breaches of advertisement control result from complaints from members of the public and local councillors. Since January 2014 the Planning Enforcement Team has received 39 cases relating to breaches of advertisement control. Of those cases, 27 have been resolved and 7 are currently ongoing.
Where an advertisement is displayed on the highway or highway structure (including street furniture) it is controlled by the Highway Control section. Highway Control work within the Technical Services Directorate and operate a zero tolerance policy in the city centre in relation to advertising boards and anything so deposited on the highway that is causing an obstruction. Outside of the City Centre the Team would always advise people not to place any advertising frames etc. on the highway but would only enforce this action if the object in question was deemed to be causing an obstruction/nuisance and/or was deemed to be potentially hazardous.
Unauthorised advertising banners attached to street furniture are generally removed without notice due to their potentially hazardous nature.
Vinyl or similar temporary signage has been discouraged in the past but some signage has been allowed for a very limited duration. Any unauthorised vinyls/signage would be removed.