Robbie Gillett from Adblock Bristol said,
“The moves by the London Mayor are an important first step in acknowledging the negative social impacts that outdoor advertising can have on us – and Bristol should take note. Whether it’s junk food, new polluting cars or photoshopped models trying to sell us products, we should be taking collective action against outdoor advertising to address issues of obesity, air quality, debt, consumerism and mental health problems.”
“Advertisers are applying for more and more digital ad screens to be introduced to our streets. But we need to reduce the amount of corporate advertising in the city – not add more. We’re calling on Bristol Council to review the social, environmental and economic impacts of all outdoor advertising in the city – especially in the revision of the Local Plan.”
Nicola Round from Adblock Bristol said,
“The removal of all large scale outdoor advertising sites in our city would be a bold and inspiring move which would show that Bristol cares about the wellbeing of people, our environment and our local businesses above the interests of faceless corporations trying to sell us more and more stuff.”
England’s chief medical officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, supports the junk food ban:
“The evidence is clear that, although it is not a silver bullet, restricting the amount of junk food adverts children are exposed to will help reduce obesity,” she said.
“Children are inundated with adverts for unhealthy food so this is a really encouraging move and a bold step in the right direction.”
Amsterdam already has a similar ban on junk food advertising in place. Grenoble in France has removed all outdoor advertising from its streets in a move aimed to “free up public space from advertising to develop areas for public expression” according to its Mayor.
Bristol residents have mobilised across the city recently against a wave of new planning applications for large format digital screens that have been submitted to Bristol City Council, including St Werburghs, Easton, Temple Way and Cabot Circus. Residents have accused advertising companies of ignoring the wishes of local communities by regularly appealing rejected planning applications to the national Planning Inspectorate despite public opposition.
Live planning applications in Bristol – 11 May 2018 – (These have between 15 – 60 objections each)
New digital screen planning application opposite Temple Meads train station. Details here .
Large new screen proposed for Bond Street South in centre of town. Details here
Large new screen proposed for Temple Way in centre of town. Details here
Our public spaces, and our minds, continue to be sold to the digital advertisers – despite public opposition, no local or national guidelines on digital advertising, and worrying implications for our safety, our wildlife, our personal data and the continued corporate takeover of our public spaces. Nicola Round of Adblock Bristol reflects on what we’ve learned about LED ad screens, and why policies badly need updating to deal with this now dominant form of corporate outdoor advertising.
When we launched the Adblock Bristol campaign last year, I don’t think we were prepared for the amount of time we’d be spending on dissecting planning applications and getting to grips with council processes. But I’ve realised that these things are important: they are what make advertising appear on your streets, or not. And it is these policies and processes which need to change if our public spaces are to reflect the free-thinking personality of our city rather than the insidious and unwanted messages to consume, pollute, spend and borrow that are increasingly dominating our streets in bright lights and moving screens.
Recently we’ve seen a number of new applications for digital advertising screens in Bristol. We are struggling to keep track of them all. This type of advertising is quickly becoming the dominant form; almost all new planning applications seem to be for digital, rather than static, advertising screens. And yet there are no policies or guidelines to help with decisions about this particularly intrusive and unwelcome form of advertising. The applications are still judged on the two limited criteria by which all outdoor advertisements have been approved or rejected for years: that of ‘public safety’ and a vague term called ‘amenity’ which means how the billboard will affect the neighbourhood it sits in, and the people who live in or use the neighbourhood. This process is guided by government guidelines which you can find here. These were published over ten years ago and do not mention digital advertising.
Here are a few reasons why updated policies are needed, and why any new sites should be put on hold until we have a much better understanding of the impacts of digital advertising, and what it means for Bristol.
Firstly, more research is needed into the safety risks. Digital advertising is designed to distract drivers. At what point does this become dangerous? Of course there are already some necessary distractions on our roads, as drivers need to notice road signs and safety information. But should we introduce unnecessary distractions, simply for the sake of advertising revenue?
Secondly, illuminations are known to affect wildlife, and these LED screens are enormous. We need street lights and road signs of course, but should we introduce unnecessary bright lights to our city when we don’t yet know the risks they present to our struggling urban wildlife?
Thirdly, there has been a great deal of local opposition to recent applications for digital advertising, including screens proposed for Mina Road in St Werburghs (rejected), Stapleton Road in Easton (currently being considered) and Marlborough Street, near Bristol coach station (rejected). People who live in, work in and visit these areas are often unaware of the proposals until it’s too late. When they do become aware, they tend to be unhappy about it. Proper consultation with the public is needed, to make sure people who are affected have their say.
To their credit, the council has rejected a number of applications for digital screens in recent months. But the council’s decision in 2015 to develop plans for two or three new digital advertising sites was made partly because digital advertising was seen as inevitable, so the council thought they might as well get in on the game rather than leave the profits to private landowners.
Surely we could take a stronger stand than this. Imagine if Bristol had the will, and the power, to reject digital advertising from our streets altogether, and start to turn back the encroachment of all forms of corporate outdoor advertising, allowing people to enjoy public spaces without the constant pressures to spend in order to look thinner, smell sexier, drive faster, eat more, fly more, borrow more. Advertising does provide revenue for the council, but at what cost? Even a cash-strapped council has the power to make decisions about where they will draw the line. On the one hand the council urgently needs to tackle social and environmental problems such as childhood obesity and air pollution in Bristol, but on the other they are allowing junk food and car companies to plaster our city in manipulative adverts which are designed to influence at an unconscious level. Surely in the long run our health is more important than profiting from these adverts?
The council is in the process of developing a new Local Plan for Bristol. This is a great opportunity to introduce a clear policy on digital advertising, in consultation with local communities. Many supporters of Adblock Bristol’s aims have requested that the council develop an advertising-specific policy in the revised Local Plan in light of the shift to digital screens as the dominant form of advertising planning applications.
They should also ask national government to research and develop clearer guidelines on the impacts of digital advertising, to help councils decide: where – if anywhere – should they be considered? What are the environmental impacts of digital advertising? What about safety? And what on earth to make of the new surveillance capability of digital advertising units like the twenty-five ‘InLink’ wifi units currently going through Bristol council’s planning process? We are just getting word that many of these individual applications have this week been rejected by planning officers in Bristol. Good news. But advertising technology will continue to develop, and without proper understanding of its implications – for people, our environment, local economy and personal data – the council should not be blindly going ahead and selling our public spaces, and our eyeballs, to the advertisers.
Despite this, the council has pressed on with introducing huge digital advertising screens into the city. People will be familiar with the enormous two-sided screen on St Philips Causeway which can be seen for miles away, and the screen on busy Lawrence Hill roundabout.
There are more to come. As a result of the 2015 decision mentioned above, the council is currently planning two huge new digital advertising screens, each measuring 8 metres by 5 metres. One would sit on the central reservation on Temple Way, the other would sit over the pedestrian walkway on Bond Street alongside Cabot Circus. Bristol Civic Society has raised serious concerns over the impact this would have on nearby residents and hotels, and on light pollution and road safety.
What can we do? It’s important to let our voices be heard, and the main way of doing that is to object to the planning applications. Lots of objections can sometimes mean that the application is rejected, and sometimes it can mean that the decision is referred to the council’s planning committee for greater scrutiny by councillors, rather than sitting in the hands of planning officers.
These are your public spaces, and this is how the council will find out how you want them to be used. You can also email your councillor to let them know how you feel. Find your councillor here.
This is an important part of the Adblock Bristol plan, but we’re also raising the public conversation about outdoor advertising and consumerism in the city through our public events, research, public arts and media work. We have regular monthly meetings open to everyone to get involved.
Ultimately we need a coherent vision for Bristol which listens to how people feel about their public spaces, and responds to the needs of people who live in our city, not the greed of faceless corporations. This is a huge and exciting opportunity. It would be a bold move, but just imagine if Bristol was the first city in the UK to ban billboards, creating a happier, healthier, less stressed-out city that benefits everyone.
Adblock Bristol raised a petition (that now has over 4000 signatures) opposing Bristol City Council’s proposal to fund parks by selling advertising space in them. This is a video of the petition being presented and then debated in a full council meeting on Tues 20 March 2018.
Adblock Bristol is dismayed to report that there’s a new proposal for a HUGE LED digital advertising screen to be mounted on the big City Point building which directly faces the mouth of the Temple Meads Station approach ramp.
This is a very busy “T” junction with pedestrians and commuters crossing roads, and they are liable to be knocked down by motorists distracted by this billboard if approved.
The application includes a letter from a doctor of driving behaviour which rebuts the Council’s refusal of a similar previous application and says the screen would create no distraction! What a load of rubbish, when the screen is clearly aimed at being eye-catching to motorists and pedestrians alike!
Please object to the proposal using the link below (“Make a comment”); and remember to object on the grounds of safety (it’s a very busy junction!) or amenity (it will look unpleasant, or not fit with the character of the area) as these are the only grounds the Council will consider.
Bristol Council is running a consultation on the review of the Local Plan. This is the framework in which planning applications are decided in the next 10 – 20 years.
It’s a big document about planning matters in the city. You can strengthen the fight against corporate advertising by writing to the council at email@example.com by Friday 13th April and copy and pasting this simple ask below:
Our monthly organising meetings are open to anyone who’s interested in planning and delivering the campaign for an ad-free Bristol, and related activities. Maybe you have an idea you’d like to share, or want to know how you can get involved, or simply want to find out more. All are welcome.
Date: Wednesday 16 May 2018
Time: 7pm – 8.30pm
Venue: Resbite Cafe, 27 Broad Street, Bristol BS1 2HG
We know advertising companies are a sneaky bunch, so don’t let these latest applications fool you. They are plans for 34 (yes THIRTY FOUR) new digital advertising screens in Bristol.
The plan is for 17 new ‘InLink’ wifi units (replacing existing BT payphones), each with two advertising screens, to be set up all around the city centre – from Stokes Croft, to Broadmead, to Park Street.
Adblock Bristol detail some of the concerns around corporate outdoor advertising in a briefing which our members forwarded to their councillors and we handed out at a Bristol City Council meeting in March 2018.
Advertising is likely to be allowed in parks with the possibility of billboards appearing in the future.
‘Low impact’ advertising in Bristol’s parks is likely to go ahead with the council refusing to rule out allowing billboards in the future, despite strong support for a petition and councillors agreeing on the negative impact.
A petition against the council’s controversial proposal to allow advertising in parks got nearly 4,000 signatures, forcing a full council debate on 20 March.
While Deputy Mayor Asher Craig said that billboards aren’t yet part of the plans, they weren’t ruling them out completely. “We cannot preclude this from ever happening as we may need to explore this again in the future if more income is required for council services,” she said.
Craig said that austerity had put the council “between a rock and a hard place” as the council tries to close the £108m budget gap.
Allowing advertising in parks would bring in an estimated £50,000 a year, but parks are set to lose £2.86 million a year from 2019.
The council says that services will need to be “run in a very different way, working in partnership with communities to look at income generation opportunities, while also making savings and making services as efficient as possible”.
“It’s a positive that the council are almost overwhelmingly sympathetic to the principle but also disappointing and frustrating that the council doesn’t seem to be willing or able to act on those feelings”