February 1, 2009

A €10m deal to erect 60 billboards? Only in Dun Laoghaire

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council has awarded a 10-year, €10m contract to a company for the rights to erect just 60 advertising billboards.

A councillor has urged that officials carefully assess the value of the contract with leading outdoor media company, Clear Channel Ireland.

The awarding of the contract comes in the wake of a highly controversial deal struck by Dublin City Council with a French advertising company, JC Decaux, whereby €1m a year will be paid for 15 years in exchange for 450 bicycles.

After much public and political pressure about the lack of transparency surrounding the 'billboards for bikes' deal, Dublin City Council recently relented and agreed to allow an independent audit committee to examine the contract.

Citing the controversy, Green Party council­lor Gene Feighery has called on Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown to ensure the Clear Channel deal would represent value for money.

"Of course I would love €10m but I really have to balance the carrot that is being dangled with whether or not it is going have a positive impact on the area and where the money is going to go and whether it is index-linked," she said.

"This is a €10m deal now but if the recession ends and advertising space is at a major premium I would want more for the spaces... I want to read the small print on this and I don't want to end up in a situation that Dublin City Council ended up in."

At a Dún Laoghaire area committee meeting last week, council management also showed local representatives the proposed locations for the 2.7 sq m standalone billboards.

But Feighery questioned whether the location of several of the advert boards would be appropriate, considering some would be situated in conservation areas.

"Dalkey is an architectural conservation area and (there) are proposals to place two there. They would be adjacent to protected structures in Dún Laoghaire and on Marine Road and we have to assess the cumulative effect and the obstruction they would cause. I would prefer to see trees being planted and although I know there is no revenue in trees, we really have to wonder whether we are defacing our town for the sake of a few pieces of silver."

In a report to councillors, Richard Shakespeare, senior executive officer of the culture, community and amenities department, said council management had also entered into talks with another company regarding the provision of larger metropole billboards.

In addition, the report noted the legal work on the Clear Channel deal was "nearing completion" and it added that the matter would be presented to councillors at the next full council meeting on Monday 9 February.
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