Monday 15 October 2007

Advertising company responsible for 119 illegal hoardings

New free-standing advertising panels which JC Decaux is seeking to erect at 120 locations across Dublin in exchange for a city bike scheme, would constitute a "traffic hazard" the Dublin Transportation Office (DTO) has told a Bord Pleanála hearing.

The board is holding an appeals hearing on permission granted by Dublin City Council for 24 of the 120 panels. However, the DTO told the hearing that it is opposed to the scheme in its entirety.

DTO chief executive John Henry said that the purpose of the street-side advertising panels was clearly to attract the attention of drivers. "Anything which is designed to attract a driver's attention must therefore distract their attention from the road. Anything which distracts a driver's attention is unacceptable."

JC Decaux, one of the world largest advertising companies, has sought permission for 70 panels of 7sq m which will stand just over 2m off the ground, and 50 panels of 2.59sq m, similar in size to a bus shelter. All of the panels will be illuminated and can carry scrolling images.

Illuminated signs adjacent to the roadside were particularly dangerous, Mr Henry said.

"The DTO is totally opposed to the provision of on-street illuminated outdoor signage as it is considered to constitute a traffic hazard." Scrolling images were "even more distracting", he said.

The DTO's position was supported, Mr Henry said, by a recent Bord Pleanála refusal of permission for an illuminated scrolling advertising panel at Long Mile Road in west Dublin on the grounds that it would distract drivers.

The DTO was also concerned about the panels that were proposed for pedestrian areas, on the grounds that they might impede pedestrians, particularly the visually impaired.

RPS consulting engineers, representing JC Decaux, told the hearing the assertion that the signs would cause a traffic hazard was "inaccurate and without substance". "The suggestion of the appellant that the proposed advertising structure will act as a distraction and consequently a hazard to motorists implies that all signage, including public information signage should be banned. This is patently unreasonable," Angela Grady of RPS said.

Illuminated signage was part of the regular driving environment for city drivers, she said.

"The suggestion of the appellant that the proposed illuminated signage will constitute a traffic hazard is considered inaccurate and without substance."

JC Decaux and the council had gone to considerable effort to ensure the structures would not affect pedestrian movement, she said.

In exchange for allowing JC Decaux to erect 120 signs for a 15-year period, instead of the normal three-year planning permission, the council will receive 450 bikes, four public toilets, and a number of tourism and public information signs.

The advertising company which is to provide a city bike scheme for Dublin in exchange for free advertising at 120 city locations is responsible for 119 illegal advertising hoardings across the State, An Taisce has told a Bord Pleane1la hearing.

The planning board yesterday opened an appeals hearing against 24 of the 120 planning permissions granted by Dublin City Council to one of the world's largest advertising companies, JC Decaux

The council has granted permission to erect 70 panels of 7sq m (8.37sq yards) and 50 panels of 2.59sq m (similar in size to a bus shelter) at locations around the city for a period of 15 years. All panels will be free-standing, double-sided, can be illuminated at night and can carry moving images.

The council is to receive no revenue from the advertising or rental of the advertising spaces, but will get 450 bicycles, reduced from an original 500, which will be available for hire by the public at a fee yet to be decided.

Under the contract with the council, JC Decaux will also provide four public toilets, a number of signposts, freestanding maps and "heritage trail" posts.

The council has also secured a commitment from the company to remove 100 of its 18sq m advertising hoardings from the sides of buildings in the city.

However, An Taisce told the hearing that these older style hoardings were no longer lucrative and many were likely to be illegal and should be forcibly removed by the council.

An Taisce representative John Stewart said the heritage body had identified 119 locations across the State where JC Decaux was responsible for illegal advertising billboards. These were advertising panels that had either been erected without permission, or had been altered, extended or illuminated without permission.

In 28 cases so far, An Taisce has secured declarations from the relevant local authorities that the developments are unauthorised, eight of which relate to developments in Dublin. JC Decaux had also failed to comply with orders from An Bord Pleanala and various local authorities, Mr Stewart said.

"JC Decaux are in contempt of the board, in contempt of the local authorities and in competent of the people of Ireland as a whole."

An Taisce heritage officer Ian Lumley said the contract between the council and JC Decaux should not go ahead because it conflicted with EU and Irish law. Under an EU directive the project should have been subject to an environmental impact assessment (EIA), he said.

It also conflicted with Irish property law, which stated that property owners had rights to a portion of the public road. He added that the applications were "premature" because the city council was preparing an outdoor advertising strategy. The contract should not be allowed to proceed until this strategy was adopted, he said.

Senior planner with the council Mary Conway said the applications did not fall within the EIA remit. JC Decaux has said that Mr Stewart's assertions were untrue and defamatory. The hearing continues today.

Olivia Kelly
The Irish Times

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