Councils to target rogue billboards

Outdoor companies are bracing themselves for a clampdown on illegal advertising billboards by London borough planning departments, following an accident last weekend.

A woman was taken to hospital after a Van Wagner 96-sheet billboard, which was reinforced with steel, fell off Blackfriars Bridge in London onto her car. She was treated for minor injuries.

Southwark council, which is the planning authority for the site of the accident, is claiming the billboard did not have its permission. In the weeks building up to the accident, the council had a spate of pulling down billboards on the same site that it deemed illegal.

The council denies that during this process it may have loosened Van Wagner’s board.

It is commonplace for outdoor companies to build sites without prior planning permission from the council, so long as they have permission from the landlord of the site.

The outdoor company will then apply for planning permission. If the council refuses, the outdoor company can appeal against the council’s decision. This process of refusal and the subsequent appeals often go on for months and, in many cases, years.

Now it is likely that Southwark, and several other London boroughs will have a crack down on billboards, particularly on bridges, that do not have planning permission.

A spokesman for Van Wagner says that the accident was a “freak” and that it has launched a full investigation.

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