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Billboard operating without permit suddenly dismantled following media inquiry

15:56 26/10/2021

A billboard in Molenbeek that has not had an operating permit for 18 years has finally been pulled down. It appears that the owner, JCDecaux, has been earning money with the illegal eight square-metre panel for all of that time.

The billboard (pictured) became the subject of debate last month when the property on which it stands – on the Chaussée de Ninove near the canal – was sold by property developer Besix, which owned it. Upon inquiry, it was discovered that the billboard has not had a permit since 2003.

Better still: Marketing firm JCDecaux requested another permit in 2017 but was refused. Still, it continued to sell advertising on the space – which is apparently allowed, though the tax rate is higher. While this particular case then made it into the press, it is said to not be the only ad space being used without a permit in Brussels.

“The urban planning department is flooded with work,” Rachid Barghouti of the mayor’s office told Bruzz, “and the fight against billboards that violate the rules has not been a priority in recent years.” (Recent years being apparently close to two decades.)

Money, money, money

While JC Decaux owns the billboard, it pays rent to the owners of property where billboards are placed. According to Bruzz, Besix earned between €17,000 and €24,000 a year for hosting the billboard. JCDecaux also pays taxes to the municipality for the advertising space.

The flow of money, in any case, has been brought to a halt as the billboard was torn down last week. The change was spotted by a Bruzz reporter.

Molenbeek city councillor Luc Vancauwenberg (PTB-PVDA) smells something rotten. “The sign provided the previous owner Besix with tens of thousands of euros a year, and the municipality also earned from it through the tax on advertising space. By the way, that tax is higher for signs that don’t have permits. Strange, isn’t it?”

Vancauwenberg is also convinced that this sign was removed only because of Bruzz’s inquiry into billboards operating without permits.

Image courtesy Google

Written by Lisa Bradshaw