County council clashes with event promoter over signage

Council plans to issue litter fine for event being held on its property

Westmeath County Council plans to issue a litter fine to a promoter advertising an event at one of its own sites.

The promoter of The Midlands Home and Garden Festival, due to be held this weekend, has no permission to put up posters for the event at Belvedere House and Gardens, which he is renting from Westmeath County Council.  

Director of Services for Mullingar, George Lambden, says he will be issuing on-the-spot litter fines to Alan Collins of Home and Garden Exhibitions, who says he has placed 100 signs across the county.

Mr Collins claims that as a travelling show the event is exempt under the Show Act and that he is compliant once he puts up the signs no more than seven days in advance of the event and removes them no more than seven days afterwards.

However the Department of the Environment says it’s unaware of any legislation entitled the Show or Shows Act, and added that “It is a matter for the local authority. Any signage that goes up should have their permission and it is up to them to pursue it under the Litter Pollution Act”.

Mr Lambden says the event is nothing to do with the council which had only recently become aware of the signs as a result of a number of complaints and will be requesting that Mr Collins remove them.

Failing that, the council will proceed with prosecution under the Litter Pollution Act.

He says the council is not happy with the posters and does not accept that Mr Collins is exempt, despite his contention that he got a favourable judgment a number of years ago when prosecuted by Limerick County Council for having illegal signage.

Mr Collins claims he has “a court ruling to say I’m exempt”.

Subsequent to that ruling, signs erected by Mr Collins for a 2008 event were removed by Limerick County Council who say they only consider granting permission to charity or local events which are not run for commercial purposes.

Even then, applicants must write in advance and permission if granted is conditional on prompt removal and observation of safe, non-obstructive postering at roundabouts and out of sightlines. 

In April, Westmeath County Council was criticised by a District Court judge following a prosecution against a local businessman for putting up four signs advertising breakfasts during the ploughing match.

Judge Gerard Haughton said that county councils should be “bending over backwards” to support local businesses and applied the Probation Act to Martin Buckley of Tyrrellspass Castle Restaurant.

He said the council, which has upwards of 30 signs advertising its own Belvedere House and Gardens, should not be “obstructing” businesses and should not “be advantaging just their own”.

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