Protest group could face legal action

By Ted JeoryTHE campaign group opposed to the expansion of Stansted Airport could be prosecuted for allegedly putting up roadside placards without planning permission.

By Ted Jeory

THE campaign group opposed to the expansion of Stansted Airport could be prosecuted for allegedly putting up roadside placards without planning permission.

Uttlesford District Council officers said the Stop Stansted Expansion group could be taken to court if it did not remove the advertisements.

John Mitchell, the council's head of planning, said it had received an increasing number of complaints about large Stop Stansted Expansion placards and billboards that had been put up at prominent locations throughout the district.

In a report to be discussed by the council's development control committee on April 5, he added the display of advertisements without consent, was a criminal offence, regardless of their content.

"While the strength of feeling that has given rise to the display of these advertisements is acknowledged, members have to consider whether they would be tolerated if they were for any other purpose, eg commercial advertising - officers consider they would not," said Mr Mitchell.

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"In themselves, without reference to their content, they are unsightly and detrimental to the appearance of either the countryside or urban locations in which they are displayed.

"Some, because of their locations close to busy road junctions, may distract drivers' attention and be detrimental to public safety.

"Doing nothing is not an option. The council has prosecuted other offenders for illegal display of advertising and they have not unreasonably pointed out the lack of action over the Stop Stansted Expansion's."

The council has written to Stop Stansted Expansion asking it to remove the larger hoardings and to stop fly-posting stickers on street benches. Mr Mitchell added if that failed, the group could be taken to court and face, if convicted, fines of up to £2,500.

Stop Stansted Expansion campaign director, Carol Barbone, said it hoped to work with the council to find more appropriate sites for its advertisements.

"We tell our members the stickers are meant for their windows, but with 4,500 people it's difficult controlling them all," she added.

"We understand the difficulty the council is in and we hope we can find some mutually convenient and appropriate place for the billboards.

"It's highly unlikely that we will be prosecuted and, anyway, I think what would be more unsightly than posters is having the world's largest airport on your doorstep."

ted.jeory@eadt.co.uk

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