New rules allow unlimited billboard placements on all roads

New legislation regulating the erection of billboards has done away with restrictions on the number of billboards that can be placed along 30 of Malta's major arteries

New legislation regulating the setting up and placement of billboards has done away with proposals to restrict the number of billboards that can be placed along 30 of Malta’s major arteries, MaltaToday has learned.

According to a draft legal notice drawn up in April 2017, the number of commercial billboards that could be placed along certain roads was restricted, with the number that could be placed in each direction clearly defined.

But a new legal notice introduced on 9 February this year did not include the roads list or any restrictions whatsoever on the number of billboards that can be placed along any of the roads.

The list of roads in the 2017 draft included the St Paul’s Bay Bypass, where only seven billboards were to be allowed in each direction, St Andrews Road (five billboards in each direction), Regional Road (seven billboards in each direction), Tal-Barrani (five billboards in each direction), Garibaldi Road (nine billboards in each direction) and the Council of Europe Avenue (five billboards in each direction). On the Salina Coast Road, 15 billboards were to be allowed in the west direction, on the land side. No billboards were to be allowed in the East direction, on the coast.

The new legal notice, LN36 of 2018, was drawn up as subsidiary legislation under the Billboards and Advertisements Regulations of 2017 within the Development Planning Act (Chapter 552).

It confirmed the €1,500 yearly fee that has to be paid to Transport Malta when authorisation for a billboard is issued as well as the fees due for the commercial use of the board, which can run up to €1,150 for three months.

According to the legal notice, there needs to be a longitudinal distance of 50 metres between successive billboards of the same facing.

In determining where billboards can be placed, the notice says that the general considerations should be traffic safety and the land use of the area, the scale and massing of existing buildings and whether there are any features of environmental, architectural or historic interest in the vicinity.

The siting of billboards on very prominent sites, such as the skyline or on the roof of buildings or in places where a strategic view would be interrupted, would not be considered “appropriate”, according to the regulations.

No mention whatsoever is made of particular roads or arteries, as had been done in the draft legal notice last year. Nor are any limits established as to the number of billboards that can be placed along any road.

One operator, who owns a number of billboards along some of Malta’s major arteries, told MaltaToday that this could lead to many more billboards being installed, even after all illegal billboards are removed or regularised.

The legal notice also identifies a number of cases where no permission is required, including 10 billboards used exclusively for activities and events of the Office of the President, 10 billboards advertising activities organised by non-governmental organisations and up to two billboards advertising public and EU-funded projects.

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