Signs get the boot from angry councillors

Angry councillors have thrown out plans for roundabout advertising, saying they were being asked to put finance before public safety.

The proposals for 26 roundabouts, including two sites in Alnwick and Hipsburn, were put forward by Northumberland County Council’s sustainable transport section as a money-making venture.

But every one of them has been rejected by the authority’s planning and environment committee after a fierce response from councillors.

Member Jeff Gobin said: “We went through an exercise with highways officers about the clutter of signs and how it might distract drivers.

“I thought we were going along taking signs out, but now we are asking to put signs up – money-making signs.

“I’m being asked by officers to put finance before safety and the health of the public of Northumberland and the visitors to Northumberland and I’m not prepared to accept that. I want no signs.

“It is totally wrong.”

Initially the council planned to erect signs on 54 roundabouts, with up to four on each, to generate cash for highways work.

Sixteen sites were dismissed over highways or environment concerns, but a further 12 were approved by officers under delegated powers when no objections were received.

The remaining 26 applications for roundabouts, including in Alnwick and Hipsburn, went before the planning committee last week.

Principal planning officer Jennifer Adamson said: “This is a continuation of the process that started about 10 years ago, as approved by the then county council, that went on to promote signs on roundabouts, and a series of applications were submitted by district councils.

“The money generated from these advertisements, if they go ahead, would be allocated to the management and improvement of the county’s highways network.”

In Alnwick, four signs were proposed for the Willowburn roundabout on Willowburn Avenue but the town council objected over fears they would distract drivers and make the roundabout more dangerous.

Lesbury Parish Council, along with one local resident, objected to plans for four signs on the Hipsburn South roundabout, saying they would amount to unnecessary clutter, add to road safety problems, encourage more unauthorised signs and harm the appearance of the area.

Planning officers told the committee that all 26 roundabouts had been assessed and the signs would not look like clutter, would not cause visual harm and would not be a distraction.

Coun Ian Swithenbank said: “How can this council talk about road safety when it comes to proposals like this?”

But Coun Dougie Watkin said the council has a responsibility to help businesses promote themselves.

All 26 applications were rejected by 10 votes to three.