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MONMOUTHSHIRE: Roadside adverts refused

A LARGE LED digital advertising display at a rugby club facing a “busy and complex” motorway junction would be a safety risk, an inspector has ruled.

Avertising firm Route Media wanted to place the screen, which would be six metres wide and three metres tall, within the grounds of Chepstow RFC north of the roundabout at junction two of the M48 motorway at the edge of the town.

Monmouthshire County Council had already rejected the idea, in February this year, on highway safety grounds.

It said: “The advertisement sign’s sole purpose to attract driver attention at this location would be to the detriment of highway safety.”

The Cardiff-based firm appealed the decision but independent planning inspector Zoe Baxter, who considered the application on behalf of Planning and Environment Decisions Wales, backed the council’s decision.

She said the roundabout requires a driver’s full attention and there should be no distractions with there also being a shared path for cyclists and pedestrians to cross one of the roundabout’s exit slip roads.

“The display would be located at a complex point on the roundabout where drivers need to be particularly vigilant in terms of observing road signs, taking exit routes and ensuring they observe any cyclists/pedestrians crossing the shared use path on the Conway Drive exit, immediately after the prominent viewpoint of the sign.”

A view of the current signs at Chepstow RFC’s ground as a driver passes the A66 Wye Valley Link Road exit and approaches Conway Drive. Picture: Google Streetview

Ms Baxter visited the site where smaller advertising signs are currently in use and said she found the plan for a larger sign, which would change its display every 10 seconds, “would result in greater potential for distraction than the existing signage at the site”.

She also disagreed with the firm’s claim that the sign wouldn’t be visible as drivers progress on the roundabout after exiting the A66, Wye Valley Link road and said: “the illuminated sign with image rotation would still be visible and therefore has the potential to distract drivers at this busy location”.

Accident statistics showed there had been seven nearby in the period 2017 to 2021 with three, including one serious accident, having occurred where the sign would be visible.

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The inspector said those statistics, put forward by the firm in support of its appeal, only added weight to the reason for refusal: “The appellants suggest that the number of recorded incidents is in keeping with other motorway junctions, the proposed advertisement would introduce a larger more prominent feature for northbound drivers of the roundabout, increasing the risk of driver distraction and the potential for incidents.”

She did accept adverts shouldn’t distract drivers who are taking “due care and attention” but said: “The scale and illuminated nature of the proposed display in a location where driver decisions are crucial would have significant potential to distract motorists to the detriment of highway safety; such a risk is unacceptable.”

Ms Baxter also said highway safety had to be the top priority: “I acknowledge that the signs could promote businesses within the town and help to support the local RFC, however such benefits would not outweigh the harm identified.”