Councillors call off criminal proceedings over billboard

Wednesday November 1st 2023

A68 as it joins the Edinburgh City Bypass.

The billboard, before it was taken down, was situated at the junction of the A68 and the Edinburgh City Bypass.

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

Councillors have called off criminal action against an unauthorised billboard at the junction of one if its busiest roads after it disappeared from its site.

Midlothian Council had been preparing to ask the Crown Prosecution Service to get involved after the hoarding was considered an ‘unacceptable’ risk to motorists. However a meeting of elected members this week heard that after threatening to take legal action the sign, which had been in place for a number of months vanished.

The board was sited on the slip road of the A68 as it joins the Edinburgh City Bypass.

A report to the council’s planning committee in September said the owner of the advertising board, the owner of the land it was situated on and anyone benefiting from it could face a fine of up to £50,000 for putting it up without planning permission.

And it warned allowing the sign to stay could lead to a ‘sporadic’ spread of additional signs appearing.

Officers said: “The site is in the countryside/greenbelt which affords the land a high level of protection in terms of national and local planning policy.

“The erected advertisement is incongruous and distracts from its setting whilst also introducing a commercial sporadic unplanned form to the locality.

”In terms of public safety, it is considered that the advertisement, situated at a junction of one of the busiest parts of the strategic road network in Scotland is highly likely to provide a situation detrimental to highway safety as a potential distraction to motorist and therefore unacceptable.”

This week the committee was to withdraw instructions to officers to take the case to prosecutors after they were told the billboard had been taken down.

Peter Arnsdorf, head of planning, told the meeting: “Although the breach of planning control has now been resolved an offence had taken place and as such the council can technically still seek prosecutorial action against that

“However, as the objective of the planning enforcement system is to resolve breaches of planning control rather than to act as a punitive system, it is considered no longer expedient to pursue prosecutorial action.”

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