CONTROVERSIAL plans to hang giant advertising banners from the top of the Forth Road Bridge to help fund its 50th anniversary celebrations have been abandoned.
The 66ft-wide promotions would have remained in place for up to a year, prompting anger from heritage groups when bridge officials revealed the scheme last year.
However, the Forth Estuary Transport Authority (Feta), which runs the crossing, has quietly dropped the idea.
It said erecting the banners would have caused too much disruption to traffic and could have prompted a public backlash.
The authority said it had also found the sponsors’ adverts would not raise the hoped-for hundreds of thousands of pounds, and funding for the celebrations had been found elsewhere.
The Feta board gave the go-ahead to the banners two years ago, when they were expected to raise a “significant proportion of the necessary funding”.
The authority has not revealed the budget for the ten-day Forth Bridges Festival in September, but said events had not been scaled back. They include a rowing regatta, torchlight procession over the bridge and a fireworks display.
The banners would have been erected on both towers of the grade A-listed bridge, hundreds of feet above the carriageways.
The scheme would have required listed building consent, but Feta said local authority planning officials had advised that should not be a problem because it would not be a permanent addition to the structure.
Feta had also stressed the banners would not distract drivers because of their height, and were aimed at being viewed from the shore.
It said a precedent had been set with RBS sponsoring a millennium clock for 2000 on the adjacent Forth Bridge, which is also grade A listed.
Edinburgh’s conservation watchdog the Cockburn Association said it was delighted the plans had been scrapped.
It had described the plan to celebrate the bridge’s half century by covering it with banners as “perverse”.
Director Marion Williams said: “I’m very pleased to hear this. Respecting a structure such as this is very important, and commercialisation isn’t the answer, nor would it be justified.”
However, other heritage experts were less critical.
Edinburgh-based conservation architect James Simpson said: “I would not be particularly hostile if it was on a temporary basis and provided there was no damage to the bridge, or distraction to drivers.”
Feta said it could fund the festival without the banners.
Spokesman Chris Waite said: “We are happy that sufficient funding has been secured to deliver a fitting finale to the Forth Bridges Festival, without the need to sell advertising on the bridge. Further details on the events will be announced soon.
“Over the past year, feasibility studies were carried out into various methods of displaying advertising. However, the more ambitious concepts all proved problematic in terms of cost, time or disruption to traffic.
“A smaller-scale scheme was discussed with potential advertisers, however it emerged that this would not raise enough money to make the venture worthwhile.
“There was always a negative side to displaying advertising on the bridge and it could only have been justified if it raised very significant amounts of money for the festival. While it is always possible to spend more money on fireworks, we also have to consider our role as custodians of an A-listed structure. We are satisfied that we have struck the right balance.”