NEWS

Ups and downs for billboards

Hundreds of illegal billboards are being torn down in Athens and other parts of the country but it has emerged that municipalities, which derive a much-needed income from the advertisements are in the process of replacing them with smaller panels. Last month, the government began working with municipalities in Athens and beyond to remove the billboards, often placed illegally on top of buildings or at the side of busy roads, where they can pose a threat to drivers. The Transport and Infrastructure Ministry even launched a website, www.illegalsigns.gov.gr, which allows citizens to report the location of what they believe to be illegal billboards and upload photos of the structures. Hundreds of citizens have logged on to give information about unsightly advertisements since the website went online. As a result, dozens of billboards on main roads in Athens, such as Syngrou and Kifissias avenues have been coming down in recent weeks. It was also revealed yesterday that almost 500 billboards illegally erected at the side of national and country roads in central Macedonia in northern Greece have been pulled down. In fact, officials in the area said that they have discovered that there are more than 3,000 such billboards located along the 1,400 kilometers of highway that run through the prefecture. Offenders are being fined between 1,500 and 30,000 euros for putting up the advertisements. However, as some billboards come down, municipalities are finding other ways to generate income by hosting ads. Dionysis Hatzidakis, the mayor of Palaio Faliro in southern Athens, told Kathimerini that his municipality has already launched tenders to put up smaller billboards, although it has torn down some 100 bigger ones. The Municipality of Kallithea, also in southern Athens, has also been given town-planning approval to erect 138 of the smaller structures. Almost 100 of them have already been set up.