Businessman slams council's planning permission 'hypocrisy' as he faces court over signs
A prominent businessman has blasted as "shocking hypocrisy a council decision to take him to court for erecting small signs" after the public body failed to secure planning permission for much larger advertisements.
Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council does not have planning permission for several banners, including a huge advertisement for the Queen's 90th birthday on its own headquarters in Lisburn.
But it's taking businessman Richard Snape to court at the ratepayers' expense over three 3ft by 2ft signs erected without permission.
The yellow and black signs were attached to fencing on a roundabout at the junction of Bentrim Road and Antrim Road, Lisburn. Another was hung at Tata Street and a third at Prince William Road where they would be seen by motorists.
Ironically, councils across Northern Ireland have been responsible for planning decisions since April last year.
Mr Snape (40) is the owner of several large businesses in Northern Ireland and Scotland, including the Wooden Floor company in Lisburn, which produced floors for the latest James Bond blockbuster Spectre.
He said he was only told about the action when he received a court summons to appear in court earlier this month.
"I think ratepayers' money is being squandered for an expensive court case for these small signs. It's ridiculous," he told the Belfast Telegraph.
The council has also erected several other advertising banners around the town, which also do not appear to have any planning permission.
"Planning has gone rogue. It clearly doesn't work. There is no benefit to the public," he said.
"Why are they spending so much, to what end? Who will hold them to account?"
Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council failed to clarify whether several individual council signs had planning permission.
Andy Stephens of Matrix Planning said: "The legislation indicates planning is supposed to be in a consistent manner.
"In this instance, that would seem to not be the case."
A council spokeswoman said: "Given recent enquiries and the transfer of planning responsibilities, the council is currently reviewing banner provision at its premises and elsewhere.
"Where necessary, the council will take all steps to satisfy legislative requirements, including seeking retrospective planning consent, where appropriate."
Asked about the large banner which adorns the side of the council's Lagan Valley Island building, it said: "In May 2010 the (then) Lisburn City Council applied to the Northern Ireland Planning Service for consent to display an advertisement banner on the rotunda building at Lagan Valley Island.
"In July 2010 the council was formally advised that consent was not necessary".
But Mr Stephens says that is not the case:
"With the size and dimensions, it needs planning," he said. "Just because they were advised back then, doesn't mean they don't need planning now."