The city and a billboard company are locked in a court battle over the arbitrary erection of billboards.Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/ANA Pictures

Pretoria - The City of Tshwane has cast a shadow of doubt on the safety of billboard structures standing tall over Garsfontein Road and Rigel Avenue, which are now the subject of a legal battle.

This comes after a company called Lesego Media allegedly erected “monopole” gantries which do not comply with municipal by-laws, according to the city.

Details on how outdoor advertising structures were “illegally” constructed in 2014 are set out in court papers by the municipality against Lesego.

The city turned to court seeking an interdict to allow it to demolish the billboards in the interests of public safety.

That was after the city’s repeated calls to Lesego to remove the structures were apparently ignored.

The matter has been pending for three years. Recently the court granted another media company permission to join Lesego as a respondent in the city’s application.

The parties are expected to argue in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria soon over the legality of the billboards (the structure and not the adverts they carry).

Central to the issue is that Lesego allegedly flouted local by-laws regulating outdoor advertisements by erecting four billboards without seeking prior permission from the municipality.

But Lesego is claiming that the municipality had no legal authority over the land on which the billboards were erected. This land, it is argued, while in Tshwane belongs to the provincial government, from whom permission had been sought.

In court papers, company managing director Lucky Sesiko argued that permission was sought from Gautrans (the provincial Department of Roads and Transport).

“The billboard applications were not lodged with the municipality, their having indicated it does not regulate over billboards on provincial roads.

“We considered the approvals obtained from the Gautrans provincial authority as sufficient approval required to erect and operate the billboards, a view shared and confirmed by the municipality,” Sesiko said. “The municipality didn’t ask Lesego to submit formal billboard applications, he added.

The municipality rejected such claims, stating the company went behind its back by putting up the billboard structures while it was still considering its applications.

Lesego didn’t dispute submitting billboard applications, but said they were only to inform the city and for purposes of record - the applications were not subject to approval. But the city argued that its approval was required to ensure the safety of citizens when building structures were undertaken.

The city said its inspectors were not involved with the work to erect such structures, which could pose a danger to the public “in the event of such structures failing to hold”.

The “important parts of these structures such as the foundations cannot be confirmed as complying with the building regulations and standards”, the city said.

One of the billboards is on Garstfontein Road close to the Woodlands Mall, while the other is on Rigel Avenue, close to the N1 off-ramp.

The municipality said billboards, erected without the necessary permission, could put people’s lives at risk. Lesego Media had erected billboards without first obtaining permission.

Clyde Taylor Petersen, identified in court papers as director of the city’s outdoor advertising management, communication, marketing and events department, said the municipality wanted a court interdict “directing Lesego to demolish the structures unlawfully erected within the city’s jurisdictional area”.

Lesego wanted to use the structures for displaying advertising material on the public land situated at Delmas Road/Rigel Avenue at an approximate distance of 220m north of Nossob Street, the city said.

Petersen said Lesego lodged four applications with the city on October 1, 2014, for the erection of monopole gantry signs within a municipal area.

“Two relate to advertising structures already erected in complete defiance of the applicant’s directives not to proceed with such works without the necessary consent of the applicant in terms of the by-laws.”

Pretoria News