Council bosses are under fire over a giant advertising screen which has been branded an “accident waiting to happen.”
South Tyneside Council says it needs the revenue from the 10ft by 20ft sign which has been installed on the A194 Leam Lane, Jarrow.
But the 24/7 sign has been criticised as a potential distraction to drivers.
When asked its benefits and if consideration was given to it taking drivers’ eyes off the 70mph-limit road, a spokesman said: “The sign is used to promote the council’s own services and events as well as bringing in valuable advertising revenue at a time when budgets are under intense pressure.
“The sign can also be used to advise motorists of traffic delays, roadworks and accidents in real time, diverting them to alternative routes if required.
“We commissioned an independent road safety audit and our own officers also carried out a thorough road safety assessment.”
Opposition councillor Lee Hughes, of Putting People First, said: “It’s an eyesore, a danger and an accident waiting to happen.
“I’ve heard people saying they think the same. It is a massive display. I’d be interested to know how much it’s costing and what it is earning.”
The council would not say how much the project cost or how it generates following a Freedom of Information request by the Gazette.
It says the information is “commercially confidential” and could give competitors an advantage.
It’s an eyesore, a danger and an accident waiting to happen.Councillor Lee Hughes
An inquiry to project partner Kong Outdoor, asking who foots the bill and where the money goes, went unanswered.
The Gazette also asked for details of any complaints it has received.
The council says no formal concerns have been raised, although there have been a “number of inquiries by telephone which have all been addressed”
It says it has had a “large number of compliments” about it and its promotion of local events.
Technical information on the sign’s plans - approved retrospectively - says its brightness is governed by sensors and it dims at night.
Jack Kushner, spokesman for road safety charity Brake , said: “Any unnecessary distraction beside a busy road is a major cause for concern. “Driver distraction is one of the biggest contributory factors in serious crashes on our roads, and it is crucial that drivers are able to keep their minds completely focused on the road at all times. Distraction can be deadly.”