Council Defends 'Safe and Secure' JC Decaux Ad Display

Concerns that sign is causing problems with social distancing dismissed

JC Decaux's sign being installed in May 2019
JC Decaux's sign being installed in May 2019. Picture: Jo Biddolph

Hounslow Council has issued a statement defending the digital ad display board on Chiswick High Road which residents and councillors say is compromising efforts to maintain social distancing.

The obstruction caused by the sign at 426 Chiswick High Road just up from the Old Packhorse pub has become more of an issue since the erection of hoardings around the Empire House construction project which has taken up even further pavement space.

A Council spokesperson said, “The JCDecaux advert has been in this position for 2.5 years and has all the right consents in place to be safe and secure even during this period of Covid-19 T4 restrictions.

“We are surprised that the issue is only being raised now, however, our officers are happy to speak to businesses nearby about their hoardings so that the passing area does not feel so closed-in and like a ‘pinch-point’ for those people using the pavement.”

According to Cllr Jo Biddolph the display was put in place in May of last year and has seen correspondence between her and an Assistant Director in the council planning department making a complaint about the positioning of the sign as it was in the process of being installed.

Cllr Biddolph made another complaint about the sign on 3 November this year after the issue was raised a number of times by residents following the reimposition of lockdown restrictions and the additional narrowing of available pavement space due to building works.

Initially she was told that it had been determined that the sign was in breach and JC Decaux had been notified but no further action was to be taken.

The nature of the breach was not specified but it was thought possible that because the original application made in 2018 was to replace an existing JC Decaux sign which was directly adjacent to a nearby tree, the new digital display was in breach because it was moved to the middle of the pavement.

The location of the previous board placed by JC Decaux
The location of the previous board placed by JC Decaux. Picture: Google Streetview

Obstructive board next to 426 Chiswick High Road
The replacement board is some distance away from the original site

When the councillor first raised the matter, the documentation on the location submitted with the original application, including the specification of the display and the location map, was not available on the council web site.

Planning officers later confirmed that an investigations officer visited the site on 6 November and found that the all three dimensions of the board were greater than those submitted with the application. Although the difference in width and depth was marginal the height approved was 2.52m but the board installed is 2.9m high.

The enforcement officer found that the location of the board matched the map that was submitted with the application and therefore, as the non-compliance with regard the height was deemed to be marginal, it was decided not to proceed with enforcement.

Obstructive board next to 426 Chiswick High Road

Following further questions being raised about the application by Cllr Biddolph and local residents, the missing documentation was published on the council web site earlier this week including the location map and the specifications for which JC Decaux was given approval.

The location map submitted with the application does show the present location of the board but makes no reference to the site of the display it was replacing which was several feet away and at the side of the pavement causing no obstruction. Some residents have speculated that planning officers may not have noticed the changed location on the map submitted and given approval assuming that the sign would have been in the exact same spot as before.

Cllr Biddolph has now been informed by a council planning officer that the investigation into the sign has not yet concluded and the issue with the size of the sign, as opposed to its location is being reviewed. A condition of the sign being granted was that, “No advertisement shall be sited or displayed so as to … endanger persons using any public highway”.

The exact nature of the financial arrangement between JC Decaux and the council with regard to the sign is not known but a significant proportion of the ads displayed on it are for the council or council affiliated organisations.

We approached Great Marlborough Estates, who are responsible for the hoardings which caused the additional loss of pavement space at the site for comment but have yet to receive a response.

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December 24, 2020