Illegal motorway billboards face crackdown

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The Independent Online

Steps to curb illegal billboards along motorways will be unveiled next year because they are a safety hazard, the Government announces today.

Yvette Cooper, the housing and planning minister, says: "Many of these ads are dangerous as well as being an eyesore. It's time local authorities clamped down. Some people think they can get round the planning system just by putting these ads on trailers in fields. They can't. It doesn't matter if it is on a trailer or a hoarding - if it is stuck in a field by the side of the road it should be treated in the same way."

She added that a national database with information on companies flouting the law could be launched.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is also seeking assurances from companies believed to be advertising illegally that this practice would stop.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) said there was still up to one hoarding for every three miles of fast road. The agency said these could pose an increased safety hazard at a time when large numbers of motorists were driving home for the festive period, as they often obscure road signs and distract drivers.

Paul Miner, the CPRE's planning campaigner, said: "We have successfully highlighted that much of this new roadside advertising is ugly, dangerous and breaking planning rules. But the problem is still there and we need to do more.

"Highways Agency traffic officers can't tackle the problem on their own. We're calling on more local authorities, especially in hotspot areas, to endorse our campaign and take action.

In August, the CPRE found companies including McDonald's, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Ibis Hotels to be guilty of taking out large adverts on illegal billboards placed next to motorways and major roads.

Four months after the CPRE highlighted the problem, action has been taken on the A1 in the east of England, the A5 in Shropshire, the M1 in South Yorkshire and the M6 and M62 in Lancashire. But the problem seems to have increased on the M25 north of London.

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