Update. The council’s cabinet has agreed to implement this scheme.
The council’s cabinet will tomorrow (Wednesday) discuss a proposal to install advertisements roundabouts, boundary signs, lampposts and verges. This commercialisation of public space is predicted to generate £392,000 for the council over four years.
The plans will also clutter the county with around 270 roadside signs, with the possibility of others to follow on bus shelters, bridges, central reservations, barriers, waste bins and street furniture, hanging baskets and flower beds, customer vehicles, customer buildings, car parks, statues and so the list goes on.
In the first phase, commercial advertising signs will appear on roundabouts, boundary signs and verges. In the second phase, lampposts will be used. The scheme will be run by an external company (there is at least one that specialises in roundabout advertising). This will be just the start. The council says:
“The performance of advertising via the use of highways assets will help to inform the use of a wider range of council assets which may increase the volume and value of income raised to support public service delivery…
“There may be also an opportunity for advertising on other mediums in the future including billboards, digital signs, bus shelters, bridges, central reservations, barriers, waste bins and street furniture, hanging baskets and flower beds, customer vehicles, customer buildings and statues.”
The council is also considering advertising on digital screens, on sponsored uniforms and in car parks.
Any increase in advertising to “other mediums” will be decided by the Director of Place, having consulted the deputy leader and the portfolio holder for physical infrastructure, highways and built housing who happens to be the deputy leader.
Income from the advertising – the council get 60% of revenue – will be used to help fund maintenance of roundabouts, verges and to improve the public realm along with contributing £10,000 a year towards savings required of the Directorate of Place. The council is also considering whether some of the income generated could be used towards carbon in setting within Shropshire using tree planting or other land management activity.
Signs larger than 0.3 square metres require advertising consent.
There are issues not covered by the cabinet papers.
The scheme will lead to a substantial increase in clutter across the county. There is a danger that this will distract from the beauty of our countryside and the historic streetscapes of our market towns. The council needs to raise money but it is not worth trashing the beauty of our county for £100,000 a year.
Many lampposts in town centres and approach roads already sport banners to promote the town and during festivals. As far as I am aware, there is no charge for these. Will they be displaced by the commercial signs? Will town councils and festival organisers have to pay a commercial rate?
Will Shropshire Council consult with town and parish councils before erecting signs? It is likely to face complaints unless it does so.
I am less concerned about distractions reducing road safety. It is often stated that such signs would be a distraction to drivers and could cause accidents. But the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents says: “Such signs are now quite common throughout the country and there is no evidence to show that they have caused accidents.”
Ludlow has no major roundabouts owned by Shropshire Council. The A49 roundabouts at Sheet and Rocks Green provide an unattractive entrance to the town. But they are owned by the Highways Agency which seems disinterested in aesthetics.