NEWS: Govt to abolish rural poster site block

The Government is set to overrule protests from environmental groups and abolish rules which prevent poster hoardings being put up in the countryside.

The Government is set to overrule protests from environmental groups and

abolish rules which prevent poster hoardings being put up in the

countryside.



The move could eventually give the outdoor industry a boost, even though

ministers deny claims by ‘green’ pressure groups that it could result in

an American-style explosion of giant hoardings next to roads throughout

rural Britain.



Ministerial sources say John Gummer, the environment secretary, intends

to abolish the system which has effectively outlawed hoardings in the

countryside since 1948.



While Gummer may keep some curbs in environmentally sensitive areas,

such as national parks, there would be no automatic bar in other rural

areas.



However, ministers insist the current rules are outdated and duplicate

the planning work of local authorities. Under the new system, planning

permission for poster sites would still be needed.



‘It would not mean relaxing the rules, but updating an obsolete system,’

one Government source said.



However, environmental groups argue that abolishing the existing

controls would be the ‘thin end of the wedge’ and encourage local

authorities to allow poster sites.



The Government’s plans would require legislation and Labour MPs warned

this week that they would fight the plans when Parliament resumes next

month.



Gordon Prentice, the chair-man of Labour’s backbench environment

committee, said: ‘The idea of the countryside being cluttered up with

billboards fills me with despair. The practical effect of the changes

would be to make hoardings difficult to resist.’



Prentice argued there was no need to expand the number of poster sites.

‘There has been a media explosion and there are already enough ad

opportunities,’ he said.



Labour’s protests will make it harder for ministers to get the new law

passed before the general election, which must be held by next May.



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