An advertising company which entered into multi-million pound billboard contract with Birmingham City Council has suffered a setback after being refused planning permission.
Signature Outdoor was given city council-owned land to put up to 35 advertising billboards around the city in a 10-year deal which was expected to generate more than £1 million a year income for the local authority.
But the council’s planning committee has sent the firm back to the drawing board after rejecting six of the sites, while a further seven planning applications were voluntarily withdrawn ahead of the committee meeting.
The income was expected to boost council accounts at a time of austerity and if planning permission for these or revised designs cannot be secured, it will place added pressure on the city budget.
Most contentious was the proposal to place billboards, including a full-motion digital screen, around Dartmouth Circus, blocking views of the beam engine tribute to industrialist James Watt.
Planning committee chairman Peter Douglas Osborn (Con Weoley) said: “This key entrance to Birmingham city centre reminds people of the industrial revolution and it would be inappropriate to cover that with billboards.
“On the wider point we had to think about the consequences of approving these. We would be faced with applications from anybody who wanted to put up a billboard along any major route or motorway through the city.
“We would end up looking like Sandwell, as seen from the M5.”
Other billboards, including some multi-media sites, were proposed for prominent sites along the Queensway, near the Bullring and Broad Street.
Committee members were united in their condemnation.
Vice-chairwoman Paula Smith (Lib Dem Hall Green) said: “The effect on the city would be disastrous.”
Adrian Delaney (Con Weoley) described them as a ‘‘blot on the Birmingham landscape’’.
Labour planning spokesman Mike Sharpe (Tyburn), added that the firm, which had withdrawn seven applications ahead of the meeting, should have withdrawn the lot.
The various planning applications were met with objections from the Southside and Retail Business Improvement Districts and many individual firms who felt they would be a visual blight on the city centre.
Council cabinet member for transportation and regeneration, Timothy Huxtable, who is a board member for both Southside and Retail BIDs, also objected to several billboards on both visual amenity and highway safety grounds.
Eventually with the committee deciding to defer a decision on the six, minded to refuse, Signature Outdoor pulled the lot.
It is thought that revised plans will be developed, rather than allowing the contract to be abandoned.
A council spokesman said: “Following the meeting of the planning committee we are currently considering all options in respect of our advertising contract.”
Managing partner at Signature Outdoor Steve George said he had nothing to add to the council’s statement at this stage.
The applications follows the appointment last September of Signature Outdoor as the city council’s commercial advertising partner.
Its proposal was to develop five ‘‘iconic’’ and 25 ‘‘landmark’’ advertising sites around the city.
A further five sites would have digital media advertising.
The council signed the deal which guaranteed more than £1 million income a year for ten years, plus the chance for more under a profit sharing scheme aimed at offsetting budget cuts.
It was a deal sealed by council deputy leader Paul Tilsley, whose portfolio now faces a shortfall if the planning permission cannot be secured.
The sites were: Summer Row, Smallbrook Queensway, Holloway Head, Dartmouth Circus, Edgbaston Five Ways, Great Charles Street/New Market Street, Hyatt Bridge on Broad Street, James Watt Queensway, St Chads Queensway, Suffolk Street Queensway, Moor Street Queensway, Lancaster Circus and Belgrave Middleway.