Motorway Advertisements

– in the House of Lords at 2:30 pm on 15th December 2004.

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Photo of Lord Harrison Lord Harrison Labour 2:30 pm, 15th December 2004

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What action they will take to maintain high environmental, planning and road safety standards in the light of the number of commercial advertisements displayed at the side of motorways.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Regeneration and Regional Development), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) (Regeneration and Regional Development)

My Lords, outdoor advertisements are controlled by the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) Regulations 1992. Next year, we intend to make some new regulations updating, consolidating and including a modest amount of deregulation. There will be an accompanying circular, which will place renewed emphasis on the importance of amenity and public safety issues when allowing outdoor advertisements to be displayed.

Photo of Lord Harrison Lord Harrison Labour

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. Does he accept that there has been a considerable increase in motorway advertisements, as evidenced by firms specialising in the practice of putting such adverts forward; and that local authorities are failing to regulate such firms, so that they are now flouting planning permission, as evidenced by the BBC "Farming Today" programme recently? RoSPA has expressed concern that a near-miss may turn into a serious accident because such adverts distract drivers on motorways. Is it not time that we did something about that?

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Regeneration and Regional Development), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) (Regeneration and Regional Development)

My Lords, as I have said, such advertisements, if they are fixed—that is, on trailers in fields—generally require planning permission. We have extremely well funded, democratic and independent local government, and it is their job, at their discretion, to police the system.

Photo of Lord Sheldon Lord Sheldon Labour

My Lords, will my noble friend take into account the position on the M6, where a number of lorries were pretending to be on their way to somewhere and holding advertisements? Then there were trailers doing the same thing, and finally the ordinary placard advertisements are on the M6. Now, we are seeing adverts to show us how to create advertisements for use on motorways.

That is the situation on the M6, and if we are not careful we will end up with the situation of some other countries—and particularly certain parts of Italy— with a continuous stream of such adverts. The suggestion made by my noble friend must be carried out in full.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Regeneration and Regional Development), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) (Regeneration and Regional Development)

My Lords, I did not quite catch the gist of that. If my noble friend is talking about the M6 motorway, if the adverts are moving and they are not covered, no planning permission is required. If they are on the highway, the highway authority will remove them. If they are in the fields, they can be there perfectly legally, with planning permission and with the permission of the owner of the field. There is a procedure to follow here. If it is not followed, it is up to the discretion of local authorities, who are well funded and well qualified to do it, to take the necessary action.

Photo of Lord Renton Lord Renton Conservative

My Lords, for the first time I am supporting the noble Lord, Lord Harrison. Is the Minister aware that roadside advertisements spoil the scenery and distract the attention of drivers who may be driving at great speed?

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Regeneration and Regional Development), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) (Regeneration and Regional Development)

My Lords, that may be the case, but there is one in particular that has been in sight for a long time, which advises drivers where the nearest railway station is, so that they can continue their journey.

Photo of Baroness Scott of Needham Market Baroness Scott of Needham Market Shadow Minister, Transport

My Lords, does not the increasing scale of the problem suggest that relying on individual local authorities to deal with each problem individually is not a complete solution? Will the Government consider an approach to the manufacturers of such signs to see whether some sort of code of conduct can be drawn up to deal with the problem at source?

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Regeneration and Regional Development), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) (Regeneration and Regional Development)

My Lords, if I remember rightly, the noble Baroness is a member of a county council. I find that an astonishing question from a member of a local authority. It is not the Government's job; we are not the nanny government.

We have a perfectly satisfactory law, and as I said there is free guidance. The discretion is with the local authorities. Complaints can be made and, if planning permission is required and not given, they can take action. It is not a matter for central government.

Photo of Lord Berkeley Lord Berkeley Labour

My Lords, I accept what my noble friend said, but does he agree that the Health and Safety Executive has a duty to encourage safety at work? As this is clearly a matter of road safety, will he encourage the Health and Safety Executive to take action and encourage the planning authorities when they are seen to be wanting in this regard?

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Regeneration and Regional Development), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) (Regeneration and Regional Development)

Yes, my Lords, representations about particular sites by the Health and Safety Executive or by RoSPA are made to the authority where a particular advert is sited and action will be taken. It certainly should be taken.

Photo of Lord Marlesford Lord Marlesford Conservative

My Lords, does the Minister recognise that there is a problem when local authorities give themselves planning permission for roadside signs in order to make money from them? That is not an objective system. Will his new regulations, when they come in, do something about that?

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Regeneration and Regional Development), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) (Regeneration and Regional Development)

My Lords, it is only an updating of the current regulations, which are some 13 years old. They are not a massive telephone directory; there will be an amount of deregulation involved as well. This Question is about the side of motorways, and I do not think that local authorities would be involved too much in giving themselves planning permission there.

We know what we are talking about: we are talking about trailers masquerading as advertisement signs in fields. By and large, they require planning permission if they are not moving, if they are not advertising for charity, or if they are not advertising a function that has a date, such as a farmers' market next week. The latter is perfectly OK, as you do not need planning permission if there is a date limitation. If they need planning permission, it should be applied for.