This sign, visible from the N3 just before the Tollgate exit coming into Durban, has to come down, says a high court judge, until the legalities have been unravelled. The municipality says the billboard distracts drivers and is a fire hazard. Picture: Jacques Naude

Durban - The eThekwini municipality has dashed to court to have a huge McDonalds advertising billboard removed from the top of a Durban building because it is a serious distraction to drivers on the N3 and a fire hazard.

On Wednesday acting high court Judge Blessing Msani granted an interim order which instructed Nairolf Prop, the property owner, and Wideopen Platform, a company contracted to erect and display outdoor advertising, to remove the billboard immediately.

The municipality and the companies have been embroiled in a legal dispute over outdoor advertising on the property since 2012.

According to court papers, that case has yet to be set down for argument.

In 2012 the municipality took the companies to court after it discovered an “immense” metal frame had been constructed on the building for a large sign.

The municipality said this disregarded by-laws as no approval had been granted.

After the 2012 application had been launched, the sign was removed. Two other signs had been erected on the site since but were removed shortly afterwards.

In response, the companies have raised a dispute as to whether the internal structures of the municipality had been properly constituted to process applications for approval of outdoor advertisements.

On Wednesday advocate Mark Bingham, acting for the companies, said the matter had been opposed and asked for the application to be adjourned to file an answering affidavit, but this was refused by Acting Judge Msani.

In the city’s papers, municipal legal adviser Mazo Maphumulo said the city had discovered earlier in March that another “massive, high impact” illuminated sign had been erected.

“The sign extends across the entire length of the factory and covers the top floor of a five-storey building which is in use.”

Maphumulo said municipal attorneys had written to the companies’ attorneys on 6 March asking for the sign to be removed within seven days.

In their response, the companies’ attorney, Patrick Mundell, said the letter had been noted with “surprise” and reminded the city’s attorneys legal action had been taken.

In a supporting affidavit, the city’s traffic operations manager, Vishaykanth Hariram, said a sign mounted on the property would distract road-users travelling from the west to the city.

The sign is visible to drivers using the on-ramp and off-ramps from Felix Dlamini (Brickfield) Road on to the N3.

“Drivers must act decisively on this stretch of freeway. The advertisement is overloading drivers with excessive information at a point where critical decisions have to be made.”

Municipal fire safety officer Anthony Hartley described the sign as a fire hazard as it obstructed cross-ventilation into the property, visually obstructed fire fighters and people in the building and impeded access in a rescue. The case has been adjourned to next month.

The Mercury