From July 13 roadside billboards are no longer allowed in rural France, whether they are on public or private property. Businesses had until that date to remove them, but they don't seem to be rushing to comply. I photographed all of these signs on the Loire levee bank between Amboise and Vouvray on 13 July. They obviously don't expect the late penalty of €203 per day per panel to be applied.
The law applies specifically to rural roads and small towns and villages. Not everyone is convinced that removing the billboards is a good thing. Some local tourism officials feel it puts out of the way communities at a disadvantage if they are not visible from the road.
The law is the result of lobbying by various organisations concerned with the appearance of transport routes and streetscapes. Whilst they are happy to have had a victory they cynically acknowledge that the only reason they won was because these small rural billboards are not big business. The real fight, they know, will be big urban digital advertising hoardings. Locally, Chambray les Tours will be the place receiving the most on going scrutiny by these groups. Luckily, the local council seems to be sympathetic, already having introduced rules limiting the size of billboards. The local associations fighting for the removal or reduction of such advertising are perfectly aware that the prefecture will only act to enforce the law if they continue the pressure to improve the look of not just the countryside but commercial areas too. Apparently Langeais at any rate has taken it seriously and has had a blitz on these rural billboards, removing 60 illegal advertisments.
The Simply sign will have to go, but the ghost sign is heritage...
From July 13 the only signs allowed on roadsides in rural areas or within the boundaries of municipalities of under 10 000 population will be for local products, cultural activities (shows, exhibitions, educational activities) or historic sites open to the public. Previously supermarkets, garages, hotels, restaurants and service stations could get permission to erect a billboard because they were providing useful information to travellers. However, the feeling now is that they have abused the system.
The Simply sign is now illegal, but not the winery sign I assume.
This is not the first time billboards have been banned in France, and the painted ghost signs on buildings date from a time when they were seen as a more acceptable form of roadside advertising. Ironically, the ghost signs now enjoy a certain amount of heritage protection, occasionally being listed as historic monuments in their own right or carefully restored.