Torrevieja orders the removal of billboards in front of Los Balcones church

Torrevieja orders the removal of billboards in front of Los Balcones church
Torrevieja orders the removal of billboards in front of Los Balcones church

The location and installation of billboards in the coastal areas of the Vega Baja has always been chaotic and an eyesore, sometimes without the board owner following any criteria other than by placing their signage as close as possible to main roads that have a large influx of traffic.

The companies have taken advantage of the apparent passivity of local municipalities which continues to show little or no interest in their placement, their size or their numbers. They continue to spring up all over the Vega Baja often encroaching onto unauthorised areas, green areas and abandoned plots of land.

The sides of the N-332 as it runs through Orihuela Costa and Torrevieja are a good example.

But very occasionally, as was the case in Torrevieja’s most recent Plenary Session, the invasion of public space is so evident that the municipalities have no choice but to act. This is what has happened in Torrevieja.

The Department of Urbanism area has ordered the removal of three standard billboards, each with a display area of 24 square metres that have been installed on a plot dedicated for religious use in Los Balcones, in the green area and just a few metres from the front of the church.

For many months, and still today despite the removal order issued by the council, the billboards continue to advertise a fast food chain and a car insurance company in full view of the thousands of drivers who drive into Torrevieja along the CV-95.

For companies that specialise in this type of media, it is a business with extremely profitable margins. The only cost is the manufacture and installation of the frame and board. There is only very rarely a need to pay ground rental as the signs are usually placed on public land, verges and boundaries, along the side of main roads that are fit for hardly any other purpose.

However, highway legislation expressly prohibits this type of advertising, where it is forbidden to advertise on any site that is visible from national roads, in general any advertisement that can distract drivers. The prohibition applies to all signs, posters, inscriptions, forms, logos or images, regardless of their type or size.

But for maintaining an advertising display, the company receives a minimum monthly fee of 300 euros per board, depending on size and location, so it is little surprise that the signs continue to flood the local area.

As well as the signs in Los Balcones, Torrevieja Council has also issued a removal order for a further five illegal boards belonging to the same company which are situated on the CV 905 at the access to Urb El Limonar.

In addition to removing the billboards the company has also been fined for their illegal placement which it is thought they will be appealing as is currently the case with the dozens of other cases initiated by the previous council.

Indeed three years ago Torrevieja’s Los Verdes council prosecuted 111 cases for breaches of the municipal ordinance with regard to unsightly and illegal advertising billboards, collecting 46,800 euros in fines.

In Orihuela the council is said to lack an ordinance that can regulate the location of this type of street advertising where there are many open records of urban infringement against the illegal hoardings, often presenting a negative urban image in one of the most popular tourist areas of the province.  They say that they are unable to act as the means used to sanction and force the removal of these signs are limited, and are supported by administrative procedures that are slow and complicated.

So their lack of control continues to be exploited by many of the companies responsible for such forms of advertising, regardless of the legal breaches.