The Government has abandoned plans to allow more poster hoardings in the countryside following severe criticism from environmental groups.
The U-turn is a setback for the outdoor industry, which had been encouraged by proposals to relax the existing planning controls that prevent roadside posters being put up in most rural areas.
The deputy prime minister, John Prescott, announced on Tuesday that the existing controls would be kept after all. 'We will not change our rules, but will maintain our controls over advertisements in the countryside,' he told the Commons.
However, a limited relaxation of the rules may take place because the Government will now ask local authorities to review whether the ban on posters in their areas is still necessary.
Beverley Hughes, a junior environment minister, said that the Government had, initially, proposed to scrap the rules because local councils had not carried out the five-yearly reviews they were expected to do.
She said the status of some areas has changed over time so that they no longer needed special protection under the planning rules. 'This is clearly an unsatisfactory state of affairs that needs to be addressed,' she said.
Hughes added that the Government had considered the responses to its original proposals, which included strong criticism by countryside campaigners led by the Council for the Protection of Rural England.
'As a result, we are proposing an alternative means of addressing the problem by seeking instead to clarify and update the current position regarding designated areas,' she said.