DUP accused over Simpson billboard

Arnold Hatch standing in front of the DUP election billboard.
Arnold Hatch standing in front of the DUP election billboard.

Ulster Unionists believe the DUP are breaking the law, with a giant General Election billboard still up almost two months after David Simpson was returned to Westminster.

They accuse the Democrats of “in-your-face” politics, with the six-foot-high edifice of Mr Simpson smiling across the street from the UUP constituency office in Edenderry.

The poster states – ‘7th May vote David Simpson X, the only Unionist that can win’. He defeated the UUP’s Mrs Dobson, polling 15,430 votes against her 13,166.

The new ABC Council’s planning enforcement department has confirmed it is preparing a case against the DUP to have the poster removed as soon as possible.

Ulster Unionist Alderman Hatch who – like Mr Simpson – is an ex-Mayor of Craigavon, said, “David Simpson, as an MP, is a law-maker and it is ironic that his party seems to be breaking the law by leaving this advertisement in place.

“We’re convinced that they’re doing this on purpose, with their puerile mentality of rubbing it in. They did the same during the campaign, erecting a poster above Jo-Anne’s poster outside our office. It hardly fits in with their ‘Democratic’ label.”

Planning laws over the removal of election posters are specific, Mr Hatch went on – “and it is ironic that the planning enforcement has been transferred to the ABC Council, whose predecessor (Craigavon) David Simpson served as Mayor.”

The enforcement branch confirmed that there had been a complaint about the billboard “and an enforcement case is being investigated”.

The law states - ‘Under planning law, display of advertisements, including election posters, is controlled by Regulations made under Article 67 (control of advertisements) of the Planning Northern Ireland) Order 1991.

‘Under Class F of Schedule 2 of the Planning (Control of Advertisements) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1992, an advertisement relating specifically to a pending Parliamentary, European, Northern Ireland Assembly or district council election can be displayed without seeking advertising consent from the Department.

‘However these advertisements must be removed within 14 days after the close of the poll in the election to which it relates.’

Mr Hatch said, “We believe this law covers billboard election posters. I intend to discuss the issue with the council’s chief executive.”

A spokesman at the Portadown DUP office said that arrangements were being made to have the poster removed. “We have spoken to the owner of the property where it is situated and it should be resolved soon,” he added.