The Government is set to overrule protests from environmental groups and
abolish rules which prevent poster hoardings being put up in the
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
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
However, ministers insist the current rules are outdated and duplicate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
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.