Northern Ireland

Belfast: Christmas banners 'must come down'

Christmas banner
Image caption Belfast City Council said the festive banners are unauthorised and must come down

A Belfast hotel has been ordered to remove two large Christmas banners after the council said they breached planning regulations.

Ten Square received a letter from Belfast City Council's planning service stating the banners were "unauthorised".

The council said the signage must be removed by Thursday.

But the hotel's management said the banners, which feature the branding of a well-known soft drink, will stay up.

"The next step for us is to take legal advice and put in a retrospective planning application, but the banners will not be coming down," said Stephen Carson, group operations director for Loughview Leisure Group, which owns Ten Square.

"We have put up two banners to say happy Christmas to Belfast - in fact, happy holidays to the whole world to be inclusive of all the tourists coming into town," he said.

"The banners were up previously in 2012, 2013 and 2014 before we bought the hotel in 2015.

"We had decided not to put any banners up in the last few years when we were doing all the refurbishment works.

"This year, all the work is done, so we thought it was time to say happy Christmas."

Image caption Stephen Carson said the firm wanted to wish people in Belfast festive greetings

On 14 November, the council said it was brought to its attention that the "advertisement is displayed on a listed building without the benefit of consent".

A Belfast City Council spokesperson said: "Due to an unauthorised advertisement on a listed building at Ten Square, council is carrying out an enforcement investigation. The council will take action if it is considered necessary and appropriate to do so."

The council has said the unauthorised signage must be removed by Thursday 21 November.

'Very disappointed'

Mr Carson said the council felt the firm should have sought planning permission for the banners and "also feel there has been some work undertaken to a listed building without consent".

"We have taken legal advice with regard to the planning application but with regards to the building works we have just used the existing fixings that were there previously.

"We have done no works whatsoever to the building."

He claimed that there were banners wishing people in Belfast a happy Christmas all over the city centre, including the gates and railings of Belfast City Hall, another listed building.

Image caption The signage must be removed by Thursday

'The cost to say Happy Christmas'

He added: "Anything we have done in Ten Square, which other parts of the council will be able to confirm, we have done right, we do 100% every time.

"If it needs to be applied for we will certainly be applying for it now once legal advice comes back.

"We just assumed because they were there in 2012, 2013 and 2014 that they were fine to go up again."

The council has indicated the consequences of not removing the banners could be prosecution and an enforcement notice, which requires the hotel to remedy the breach.

"In addition, the display of an unauthorised advertisement is an offence and, on summary conviction, can result in a heavy fine of a maximum of £2,500 with further daily fines of £250 for each day on which the advertisement continues to be displayed."

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