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Thursday, 24 August, 2000, 09:40 GMT 10:40 UK
Rural advertising: Should the ban be lifted?

The beauty of the British countryside could soon be blighted by a plague of billboards following a decision by the UK Government to relax a 50-year ban on advertising in rural areas.

The decision means that large areas of previously protected farmland could soon be awash with advertising billboards instead of seasonal placards for pick-your-own.

The move is seen as one way to help boost the income of impoverished rural communities but campaigners argue that the billboards will ruin some of the most beautiful areas of the countryside, deterring tourists.

What do you think? Are the government right to lift the ban and help local farmers? Or could scenic trips through a picturesque country setting soon be spoilt by adverts for cars and deodorant?

Your reaction

The ban should stay. Commercialism and the advertising industry have a lot of social consequences to answer for. It would be the last straw if they were allowed to defile the beauty of the landscape as well.
Colin, UK

I hope that it remains banned. Here in the US we are overwhelmed with endless advertisement images covering every imaginable surface from being wrapped around buses to hovering above the very skies themselves. It is more than just ugly - it is pollution. People deserve to be able to freely enjoy the soul-restoring beauty of the unmolested countryside. Best of luck in keeping Britain beautiful!
Michelle, USA

Let's organise against this outrage

Peter Balcombe, UK
Let's organise against this outrage. We can use the net to link up and run boycotts of any firm defacing the countryside with it's advertising e.g. if Macdonald's advertises - we boycott Macdonald's outlets. I've no doubt this crazy idea will cost the Government itself dear in any case.
Peter Balcombe, UK

Terrible idea. You'd think a Labour government could get this right, if nothing else. If this stands, your countryside will be as ugly as your cities. Where's Prince Charles?

Why do you think Americans flock to England? It's to get away from the ugly billboards that advertise trashy businesses they aren't interested in, and block the views of our country. I live in North Carolina where billboards have been banned. In Virginia even cityscapes are now filled with towering billboards sticking up on towers. Don't destroy the beautiful England we all love and come to see. PLEASE!
James Martin, USA

This should be an issue for Greenpeace as well as the Government

Benj'min Mossop, Britain
The lifting of this important ban is a complete disgrace, especially noting that no publicised public consultation seems to have been made in advance. Advertising is not only corruptive and a symbol of human greed and inconsiderate capitalism but it is also ugly and further damaging to the aesthetics of beautiful countryside and rural spaces which are already being polluted by all manner of human produce. This should be an issue for Greenpeace as well as the Government. Let's not follow the route of America which has had advertising hoardings in rural areas for over a century - we don't have the space for a start.
Benj'min Mossop, Britain

Take a look at New Labour's accounts and you'll see a series of donations from organisations representing billboard advertisers in the UK. Not so much cash for questions as cash for deregulation. Welcome to the Third Way.
Jamie, London

Great! I'm going to end up paying (via the products I buy) to have the English countryside defiled. A long time since I've heard such a stupid idea.
Mick, UK

This is a disgrace - there will soon be no place to go to escape the stress of modern life. This country goes from bad to worse by the year.
William Hudson, UK

As someone who lives in the country and would presumably be expected to benefit from the income generation possibilities of such advertising, I definitely feel that the beauty of the countryside must continue to be protected from such desecration. At what point are we as a society going to decide that there are higher values than a continuous drive towards consumerism? Can we learn nothing from the American experience?
Stewart, UK

Walking through the supermarket, the product will remind us of the way the advertising hoarding obstructed the view that we had gone to the country to see. Do the advertisers really want to associate their products with those negative experiences?
Mark Hirst, United Kingdom

I would like to know what will come next - adverts branded on the sides of the few remaining cattle?

John B, UK
I would like to know how the proliferation of lurid 50-foot advertisements can be regarded as anything other than a cancerous growth in what is left of our countryside. I would like to know what will come next - adverts branded on the sides of the few remaining cattle?
John B, UK

I think the decision should be left to the rural communities. Something after all has to replace the revenues from farming, hunting etc. However I for one am tired, of never escaping form the lies of the advertisers and spin doctoring the countryside is one of the last remaining vestiges of "non over commercialisation" please let it stay that way. So much for the "green belt friendly" building policies. I dread to think what effect this would have on the lakes if this bill was passed. Please Tony think with your brain not your spin doctor ....
Jen, UK

If this goes through, I shall switch my traditional Labour vote to whatever party opposes the lifting of the ban. This is an absolute disgrace and total folly. The farmers may gain but at our valuable tourist industry's expense.
Paul Wheeler, England

Farms are factories. I have no objection to adverts on factories, especially if it will help reduce the huge subsidies we pay to keep them in wellies and Range Rovers.
Domini Connor, England

This Government really doesn't understand the rural way of life does it?

Tim, UK
This Government really doesn't understand the rural way of life does it? Blair and his cronies surround themselves with their London elite and fail to realise that life exists outside the capital.
Tim, UK

If the Government actually spent some money on the South West, instead of largely ignoring it for 51 weeks of the year (holiday times excepted), we probably wouldn't need the adverts there in the first place. The Cornish are ranked as one of the counties with the highest unemployment and lowest wage rates in the UK. Targeted assistance would be a much better way of improving the Cornish lot than turning it into a 5 million square metre advertising board fo McDonald's. The line has to be drawn between blatant capitalism and the continued unspoilt nature of the countryside.
Mark, a Cornishman in exile

I had the privilege of living in England for a couple of years until 1997. Coming from the States where every bit of lovely countryside is ruined by hideous billboards, and television shows are interrupted every 5 minutes with a string of mind-numbing adverts, I was happily impressed that Britain seemed to care about its beauty, that Britain seemed to put quality above money, greed and tackiness. Then last year I went back for a holiday and saw there were far more adverts on TV than there used to be. I knew the end would not be far off. Yet another example of the British Government working ever so diligently to wipe out all the things that have made Britain special.
Anastasia, USA

How about ring fencing the Houses of Parliament with billboards carrying a large Coca-Cola advert on each side of Big Ben?

Steve Wehrle, UK
How about ring fencing the Houses of Parliament with billboards carrying a large Coca-Cola advert on each side of Big Ben? Plenty of room outside Buckingham Palace and Downing Street, too! Just think of the Mall with billboards down each side. I'm sure that people would rather have their view of crumbling, filthy brickwork obscured rather than views of the country. It remains to be seen how many of our leading politicians would accept billboards directly outside their homes, so why should the rest of us have to suffer?
Steve Wehrle, UK

I am now living in Switzerland, but I returned to England for a weekend recently. As I drove around I remember thinking that I would eventually move back to enjoy the unique countryside, the beautiful gently rolling hills. It would be a disgrace to deface one of the country's greatest assets. I am sure that anyone who has been to the US would agree with me.
Jonathan King, Switzerland (Brit)

The ban should not be lifted, it should be extended to cover all advertising visible from public places, rural or otherwise. It's one thing to voluntarily read a newspaper or magazine full of advertisements, but quite another to have propaganda forced upon the public at large.
Tom, USA

I look forward to the day when THEY beam adverts into our heads while we sleep. Is there no escape from ads?
Duncan Drury, UK

Even houses themselves doubled as billboards

Alan Cameron, Scotland
Having travelled in India and Malaysia, the billboards there simply ruin any scenery whatsoever. Political messages, soft drinks - not just the odd advert, but in continuous rows mile on mile. Even houses themselves doubled as billboards, with the whole house painted in one or other of the colours of the sickly American cola drinks companies. I took photographs of the most beautiful mosque near Agra, in order to show others how the frontage could not be photographed properly because of the ill-maintained billboards. The same was true of other temples elsewhere.
Alan Cameron, Scotland

Billboards should be allowed as it creates economic activity. Perhaps this is the main reason that the US economy is better then the UK's.
Andrew Wright, USA

Is it any wonder that they want to keep the billboard owners sweet?

Mark, UK
During the 80's, Labour suffered because the Tories were able to rent most billboards around the country. With Labour about to spring an early election on us, is it any wonder that they want to keep the billboard owners sweet?
Mark, UK

I am a British citizen working in the Czech Republic and they have billboards the size of a house occupying the fields on the main route out of the country, advertising products like water and beer. I find these signs quite hideous and if anyone attempted to erect one near my town I'd covertly pull it down and destroy it.
David Wilson, UK and CZ

When you travel to places such as Thailand and South Africa, you clearly see how this will progress into massive, ugly billboards that dominate the roadsides.
Prof D. Chamberlain, UK

Perhaps the best way to deter advertisers from exploiting this opportunity is to ensure that their products are boycotted rather than bought, making the whole exercise counter-productive.
John Latusek, Wales

On returning to Egypt after a ten year break, I have discovered that economic success is turning this country into an advertisers' dream. Not only are the once beautiful desert roads littered with billboards for miles, almost completely obscuring the view of the sand dunes, but the elegant feluccas (sailing boats) that have gracefully plied the River Nile for 5000 years now have their sails emblazoned with "Pepsi" and "Coca Cola".
Julian, Egypt

I hope this never happens. Italy is infested with billboards along otherwise pretty roads, both near cities and in the countryside. One of my small pleasures, when back in England, is the lack of these ugly signs (which few must actually read) when driving around my home area of Surrey. It is a real pleasure not to be subjected to totally unnecessary eyesores, which serve only to spoil and cheapen any area.
Jane, English in Italy

In terms of spoiling scenery, visitors' centres and car parks are far bigger offenders

Johnny, Ireland
We have billboards along the roadside in Ireland. To be honest, it makes no difference to the view at all, since the only sensible place to put them is near major roads where lots of people will see them. In terms of spoiling scenery, visitors' centres and car parks are far bigger offenders.
Johnny, Ireland

We were overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of the countryside in the Cotswolds, Devon, Dorset, and Cornwall this spring. It would be criminal folly to mar - no, totally ruin - such really wonderful scenery with billboards. We plan another trip next year, but would reconsider if the scheme went through.
David Johnstone, USA

Much as I would hate to see the billboards, I suppose I can't really see why they couldn't be put up alongside motorways, which are a bigger blight on the countryside.
Anne Peck, UK

Advertising is an unwelcome necessity of everyday life already

Simon Park, UK
People want the countryside to escape from commercialism, not to wade through even more of it. Advertising is an unwelcome necessity of everyday life already. If you ask me, any business which needs to advertise heavily has got its business model wrong in the first place (i.e. they charge too much, they offer inferior products, they pollute the environment, etc.). I hope that - if this ridiculous idea of easy profit through planting billboards across the UK's countryside does take off - that consumers vote with their wallets, and the eco-warriors also do us all a favour.
Simon Park, UK

You are all missing the point. John Prescott, or "2 jags" to his inner circle, wants the authority to plaster the countryside with photos of his good self and good wife during his forthcoming campaign to be the next leader of the labour party and thence Prime Minister. In the short term, though, we have the General Election campaign coming up. Just think of the opportunities there will be to add wording to posters appearing in the countryside of Tony Blair.
Simon Hardy, England

If we're going to do this, let's do it properly. I think billboards should be erected along every stretch of road throughout the countryside. That way the urban chattering classes will never again have to endure as much as the sight of those nasty people who stubbornly refuse to move into a smoky, dirty, crime-infested city.
Pete Marsh, UK

Thanks for the deregulation. I have purchased a house in the countryside at twice the price of the urban equivalent to get away from the likes of Ronald McDonald. There is one sight better than that of the countryside, that of the city disappearing out of view in my rear view mirror on my way home...
Ian Bailey, England

What we want is a fair deal for people who live in the countryside, not more politically inspired 'favours' disguised by greedy self seeking politicians!

Dave, Wales
Another example of the stupidity of this Government and its approach to the Countryside, its inhabitants and the people who dispense political favours to their supporters! If you want an example of unrestricted billboards take a look at America- they're everywhere, they're ugly, unsightly and are a blight on the environment.
The only people this will benefit are the friends of the Labour party! You can be sure that the farmers will be paid rock bottom price, we don't want them or need them. What we want is a fair deal for people who live in the countryside, not more politically inspired 'favours' disguised by greedy self seeking politicians!
Dave, Wales

Quite frankly after seeing the American effort of advertising on billboards all over the countryside, I am appalled that our government would even consider it. I understand that it might bring in money for farmers, but surely there are other ways.
Katherine Walker, UK

Don't do it. We're such a densely populated country anyway, that there seem to be more towns than open space. Billboards are the equivalent of salesmen shrieking at the side of the road. Lets have more space for peace, quiet and harmony.
If rural communities want more money, then surely we can set up clever sponsorship programmes where small plaques are mounted to show that the plc has contributed directly to the community - i.e. restoring hedgerows? Isn't this surely subtler and more constructive?
Vivienne, UK

This is triggered by some marketing cartel sprinkling free lunches and back-handers in the corridors of power

David Baynes, Canada
Smith-Ryland must be standing on his head in Tasmania when he refutes the suggestion that American born philosophy is driving the commercialisation of every aspect of modern life. The god Mammon, encouraged by numerous political demagogues, has been driving American society for well over a hundred years. That is why absolutely nothing gets done there without some business corporation's name on it. Since everything that has been happening to damage British society for the last thirty years has its roots in America, it's reasonable to suggest that it's a result of that "special relationship" so carefully cultivated by the Tories.
Allowing the intrusion of signboards into scenic Great Britain has nothing to do with helping rural communities. This is triggered by some marketing cartel sprinkling free lunches and back-handers in the corridors of power.
David Baynes, Canada

Among the many things about the UK which attracts tourists is the history and the unspoilt countryside. I'm a very open-minded type of person but on this occasion I'd have to say, STOP! Aren't we going a bit far with advertising? The countryside is there to enjoy and look after; it's not a playground for advertising executives.
Shouldn't the controls at the "green belts" include the ban of advertising billboards? When I go to the countryside I want to see the beauty and nature it has to offer, not to find out that I can get a pound of cheese cheaper down the road than at home.
Pierre Stapley, Argentina (ex UK)

Much as I hate to think of the English countryside littered with adverts if push comes to shove, the billboard owners will take their case to the much vaunted European Court which will promptly tell the Brits that the sign owners are within their rights as they are "only trying to make an honest living".
Rhonde Rouleau, USA

The only way to make advertisers steer clear of this is to promise a web site listing all those products advertised in this way. Concerned people can then boycott those products. An email link to the company responsible would allow us to be more abusive...
Will Smith, UK

It surely is time that we all realised that quality of life for all is more important than money-making opportunities for some

Robert, UK
This is another stupid idea, our society is increasingly filling up with them, from the introduction of bill-boards in the countryside some will gain more money, probably those who already have more than enough, then everyone the latter included and the environment will lose big time. It surely is time that we all realised that quality of life for all is more important than money-making opportunities for some.
Robert, UK

After living in the UK for 18 years and in the countryside the farmers need the money so why not? It's better than giving subsidies to everyone and goodness only knows farmers in the UK need to boost their income somehow
Louise, France

I think billboards along rural highways are a sensible strategy

Tom, Australia
I think billboards along rural highways are a sensible strategy. Instead of engaging in nostalgia for an illusionary arcadia, people will be reminded of life's main priorities - consumption and moneymaking. Contemplation and reflection do not produce a successful economy.
Tom, Australia

If farmers were paid a decent price for their produce in the first place rather than lunatic subsidies that even they don't want, they wouldn't need to be encouraged do this kind of thing. While greedy middlemen and supermarkets continue to prosper (2p in a pint of beer goes to the farmer for barley!) farmers will continue to resort to unsightly alternatives. This is an awful idea. Just pay them for what they produce instead and remember, never criticise a farmer with your mouth full.
Peter Allingham, UK

I recently returned from holiday in Poland where billboard advertising is widespread. The detrimental effect on what would otherwise be scenic views, blights many areas and cannot be justified by the income generated.
Simon, UK

You only have to enter towns and villages in France to see what a mess can be made of rural landscapes. It is an immense shame that the Government is relaxing the rules to allow this blight here.
Jonathan Oakley, UK

If rural England can afford not to have billboards then don't have them. Conversely if the economy of rural England needs the marketing advantage that billboards can offer, who are we to prevent them? It is typical of the arrogance of the townies to try and stop this.
Simon, England

I wonder how long it will be before there are 50ft replicas of the grinning Tony and his cronies lining the roads spouting government propaganda?
Chris, England

Why not? It may add some colour to the countryside and finally drag it into the 21st Century.
Dave Allen, UK

How did you come up with that nonsense that the explosion of roadside advertisements in Oz is the result of Americanism?

Alex Smith-Ryland, Tasmania
Matthew - How did you come up with that nonsense that the explosion of roadside advertisements in Oz is the result of Americanism? Why do people on this board like to blame anything bad on the Yanks? Its silly really. Moreover, it looks childish. Anything having to do with capitalism is not necessarily the plan of greedy American corporations. Think more critically.
Alex Smith-Ryland, Hobart, Tasmania

The countryside is becoming ugly enough with pylons, massive roads and building quarries, leave the billboards out.
Paul Wilkinson, England

Please don't let them put up billboards in your beautiful country. Our country side is full of them. Once they get started you will have a hard time getting rid of them. Lady Bird Johnson tried to do her best while her husband was president. As soon as he left office all went back into place. Your country has so much beauty please don't let them do it.
Elizabeth, Texas USA

I would hate to see the UK repeat the mistakes of the US. If anyone has ever travelled the major highways in the US, you're well aware of the distraction caused by very large and often tasteless billboards.
Nick, USA

I have recently purchased my first house in a small village in the middle of the countryside, mainly because I find it more relaxing - This is rural areas are best for. Please keep advertising in the cities where there is enough hussel and bussel for it to merge in with. I also do not believe that the economic benefits really outweigh the impact that these signs will cause. The Calais area of northern France is a good example of what we do not want. "McDonalds 5km...." so what!
Ben White, UK

It will give us something to read in all those traffic jams!

John, UK
Advertisers will want to reach the largest number of people possible. This means that we are only likely to see billboards on the busiest roads, e.g. the main holiday routes to Devon and Cornwall. It will give us something to read in all those traffic jams!
John, UK

No more billboards anywhere.
Ruth, UK

England should have a look at the laws of the state of Vermont. Billboards are banned. The only roadside advertisements permitted are small black signs with one line of white text and a small logo representing the business or attraction. Driving around Vermont is certainly easy on the eyes.
Brian Jones, New York, USA

Surely the British countryside has been defaced enough already with the numerous bypasses and ugly housing estates that seem to spring up out of nowhere. Why are Tony and his cronies so hell-bent in destroying everything good about this country?
Susy Fowler, UK

Australia has also been "polluted" extensively by billboards (it's very USA influenced) and they look awful. Some town names are even "sponsored" by various corporations. Please leave our countryside alone and have the foresight to realise that Americanism is not the solution to every economic problem.
Matthew S, UK

Every time I return to England from Ireland where I have lived for the past 30 years I see the countryside diminish more and more. This final affront is like a death knell to what was once a beautiful country. Thank God for the unspoiled beauty of Ireland.
Marion Hornibrook, Ireland

If mobile phones are not allowed to be used by drivers, why should we be expected to read more advertisements when driving?
Jason, UK

If it supplements a farmer's income, why should they not be permitted to allow the signs? Yes, it will compromise the landscape, but it's the locals that ought to decide on that. Besides, it's quite helpful to learn how far the next rest area, restaurant, gas station, local attraction or hotel is. You just can't have it all. Basic economics suggests that commercialisation brings in revenue.
Guru Shenoy, USA

To see the effects of removing the ban you only have to come and look at American highways

Chris Moran, USA
To see the effects of removing the ban you only have to come and look at American highways. They are covered with ads for $1.99 burgers to $499 divorces. The billboard builders also seem to compete with each other to see who can build the biggest. Some are now the size of an aeroplane and can be viewed at a distance of over a mile.
Chris Moran, USA

A terrible idea. During a recent holiday in the USA I noted that practically every road was lined with continuous billboards. Not only is it incredibly ugly, it is also distracting to drivers and it ensures that any countryside is effectively blocked from view. I think 100% of the UK population would hate to see it here. Then again given New Labour's endless greed for revenue, is anyone really surprised ?
Neil Wilson, UK

The great American humorist, Ogden Nash, wrote a short ditty on this subject some seventy-years ago slightly plagiarising the poem "Trees" by Joyce Kilmer.
"I think I shall never see a billboard as lovely as a tree;
In fact, unless the billboards fall I may never again see a tree at all."
Steve Block, US

One has only to drive through the approaches to any US settlement to see the awful effect that these unregulated hoardings would have on the landscape

Chris Klein, UK
The government should not lift the ban. One has only to drive through the approaches to any US settlement to see the awful effect that these unregulated hoardings would have on the landscape. This only illustrates the government's muddled metropolitan thinking when it comes to addressing the problems faced by rural communities.
Chris Klein, UK

It seems that the only complainers are the Council for the Preservation of Rural England, who don't exactly seem to have much support outside urban areas. I view billboards as just another potentially- lucrative "cash crop", which can perhaps make up for recent loss in agricultural incomes.
Pete Morgan-Lucas, Wiltshire, UK

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