Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Council criticized for charity signs fine warning

Newry Mourne and Down District Council has come in for criticism after it warned that those who erect signs for charity and other events without permission would face being fined, while at the same time permitting the flying of contentious flags and banners to go unchallenged.

South Down MP, Sinn Fein’s Chris Hazzard, has described the move as “bizarre”, pointing out that signs for charity fundraisers or ‘children at play’ could attract a £50 fine for those who display them without prior permission, while those responsible for erecting signs – such as those in support of Soldier F – act with “impunity”.

“Parents could be penalised in this way while others are apparently allowed to erect signs, paramilitary flags and banners – designed to cause hurt and offence to the families whose loved ones were killed by the British army on Bloody Sunday – with impunity across the north,” he said.

An email circulated by the Council gave details of types of signs or notices that are liable for removal and thus incurring a £50 fine, including ones placed by football clubs promoting events, “coffee mornings/fun runs for charities such as Marie Curie or Macmillan” and “truck runs/vintage car rallies/sports days/slimming clubs/ and other general events”.

It also suggests residents groups “with things such as neighbourhood watch, traffic speeding signs etc” could face charges, as well as estate agents and small businesses.

It points out that signs placed on wheels or trailers are also not permitted.

“If someone erects a sign (without permission) on any pole, tree, railing or verge adopted by Roads Service, it will be removed, and charge a fee of £50 (per sign) for doing so,” the memo read.

“In recent times, due to a lack of resources, roads services have not been enforcing this and sometimes members of the public are unaware it is against the law.  So if you are affiliated to any club, charity, organization or offering advice to a new business etc, please pass on the word.”

Mr Hazzard says he believes the Council memo may have been sent on behalf of the Department for Infrastructure (DfI), which has responsibility for roads, and added that he is to seek a meeting with the department.

“It is unacceptable that parents, community groups and road safety campaigners could be facing fines for putting up signs that could help save the lives of children,” Mr Hazzard said.  “Often these signs are put up by parents and others as a last resort after calling on the Department to put up official signs.”