THE City and a billboard company have been locked in a court battle over the arbitrary erection of billboards. Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)
Pretoria - The high court in Pretoria has spoken the last word over the five-year legal battle regarding two monopole gantries in the east of Pretoria - they must once and for all be removed.

The City of Tshwane first turned to the court in 2014 during which it obtained an urgent interdict against a company called Lesego Media, which erected the gantries or billboards in contravention of the municipal by-laws.

The City said Lesego never obtained permission before erecting the billboards.

It said repeated calls to Lesego to remove the billboards had been ignored.

The City said the billboards could pose a danger to the public if the structures failed to hold.

According to the City, its approval was required to ensure safety when building structures were undertaken, but this was not done.

Judge Neil Tuchten in 2014 interdicted Lesego from proceeding with the erection of the structures. Lesego did not at the time oppose the application as it said it never knew of the court proceedings.

The company in subsequent court papers said the order only came to its attention in 2015, following which it then filed opposing papers.

In opposing a final order against it, the lawyers for Lesego argued that the Tshwane by-laws relating to the erection of advertising structures did not apply to these gantries. It argued that these were not visible from public spaces within the Tshwane municipal area.

Lesego also showed the court two letters it claimed were from the department. The letters stated that the department authorised the erection of the structures on Delmas and Garsfontein roads.

The department, on the other hand, said it never consented to the erection of the gantries and claimed the letters were fraudulent.

During the cause of the lengthy litigation, the court gave two other companies - Jinja and OW - permission to join the proceedings as respondents. They said they were in a joint partnership with Lesego for the erection of gantries.

According to these companies, they thought that the letters from the department meant that they did have consent to erect the gantries. They told the court that the department's denial of issuing the letters came “as a bolt from the blue.”

Acting Judge JJC Swanepoel in his judgment said the question was why did they believe it was appropriate to erect large gantries without municipal consent in the first place.

“Even if they believed that the land owner had consented to the construction, they must have realised that Tshwane also had to approve the erection of the structures.

“Furthermore, once they were advised that the consent letters had been forged, they should have approached the department to determine for themselves where the truth lay,” the judge said.

He meanwhile finally interdicted the respondents from proceeding with the erection of the two billboards - one over Garsfontein Road and the other over Delmas and Rigel Avenue - and to remove them.

The judge also ordered the respondents to pay the hefty legal bills for all the applications over the past few years relating to this issue.

Pretoria News