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Anger over go-ahead for huge motorway advertising screen

Sandwell | News | Published:

The Government has been approached to stop a huge advertising sign being built in the Black Country over safety fears.

The Alliance of British Drivers said the 27ft-high electronic advertising board at the junction of the M5 and M6 could distract motorists and cause crashes.

The screen will be placed on greenbelt land off Ray Hall Lane between West Bromwich and Great Barr, reaching up to 60ft off the ground, after the plans were approved by Sandwell Council on Tuesday.

Brian Gregory, chairman of the alliance, said the group was shocked the Highways Agency had raised no objections.

He said: "The plan to put large distracting advertising signs on motorways beggars belief. We call upon the Government to step in and ban these signs immediately.

"This unfortunately typifies the problem of allowing local authorities to get involved in road safety decisions.

"Time and again we hear of them ignoring advice from traffic police on vital safety matters such as speed limit setting.

"Localism has been a disaster for road safety as it places safety decisions in unqualified hands, which is a dangerous game."

The plans were approved by a majority vote during a Sandwell Council meeting despite opposition from residents and some councillors. There had been 11 objections for reasons including it being out of character with the area, potentially distracting drivers, poor design and the impact it could have on wildlife.

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The Highways Agency had condemned the rising number of large advertising hoardings along the M6 in the Black Country in 2009, saying they 'pose a serious danger to drivers and are a real concern' but decided not to object to the Ray Hall Lane site.

Alistair Harris, spokesman for Highways England, said: "Current policy states Highways England will not object to advertisement applications on third-party land unless there are specific reasons to suggest the advertisement would adversely affect safety.

"In reviewing the application, we found the proposed locations were not on a weaving section of road, would be seen in good time by motorists and would not compete with highway signage. As such, we did not have the grounds to object in this instance.

"However, we informed Sandwell Council that two conditions needed to be met to make the proposals acceptable from a Highways England perspective. These related to the proposed proximity and scale of the displays and their illumination levels."

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