Belfast City Council considers outlawing 'to let' signs
Proposals to ban 'to let' signs are being considered by Belfast City Council.
The move follows complaints from residents, particularly in student areas, about signage blight and the length of time boards are displayed.
Ulster Unionist councillor Peter Johnston, who chairs Belfast City Council's planning committee, said: "We are concerned about the adverse effect the large number of boards have on neighbourhoods and are exploring more effective ways of controlling them."
The signs are controlled by the Planning (Control of Advertisement) Regulations 2015, which contain a number of classes of "deemed consent".
The council wants members of the public to give their views on whether it should impose a blanket ban or merely introduce fresh restrictions.
New rules to limit the size of signs and to have them set flush to the building for restricted timeframes would reduce adverse visual effect, but may result in additional costs for estate agents and would require continual enforcement.
An outright ban on boards would provide an immediate visual improvement, but may mean letting agents have to rely on alternative advertising, the council said.
The public consultation will open this Monday, November 7.
Last night, Botanic SDLP councillor and local landlord Declan Boyle welcomed the council initiative. Mr Boyle said that he had brought the issue of ugly signage to the attention of Belfast City Council some two years ago, and he was delighted that it was now initiating a public consultation on the matter.
"My understanding is that this planned regulation is likely to apply to areas in south Belfast like Malone, Botanic, Stranmillis and the Lisburn Road, which are blighted by these boards," Mr Boyle added.
"Some of them left up for more than half the year. These 'to let' boards make the areas look run-down, unloved, poor and rejected.
"There's no need for them in this day and age.
"No one goes around these days noting down addresses that have boards up.
"People check the internet to see what flats or house are available to let.
"If landlords really feel a need to put up a notice, they could put something small up in a window, rather than a huge board on the front of the property."
Mr Boyle was convinced that the value of the improvement to the visual amenity of an area produced through getting rid of the signage would greatly outweigh what he felt was a minor restriction on landlords' freedom of action.
It is understood that the Belfast City Council proposals will affect only signs advertising rental property.
Estate agents' boards and hoardings offering properties for sale are not expected to be covered by any new regulations that may be introduced.