Digital billboard application on Woodhouse Lane in LS2 3AX (reference 20/02263/ADV)

Advertising Giant JCDecaux has submitted yet another application to the Leeds city council to build a 3.5 x 6.5 m electronic billboard on Woodhouse Lane in LS2 3AX. JCDecaux wants to fill up a currently open space in a grassy area with a new billboard. The deadline for objections is the 15th of May.

There are multiple reasons why this is a bad idea. Below we list a few. Please object and engage as the green areas in the centre of our city are already endangered. It only takes 5 minutes and what better way to spend some time during lockdown!

Adding this huge billboard will:

– Destroy green space which is critical for diversity and wildlife, recreation and wellbeing, clean air and health
– Stimulate more excessive consumption and energy use in a time of climate crisis
– Create a distraction and make driving and biking on this already very busy road even more dangerous
– Spoil the character of the area and close the view of residents and passersby

If you are still reading, we hope that you are convinced. Now, moving on to the action! Here is how you object:
 – follow the link to the planning portal here
– in the search bar, enter the planning reference: 20/02263/ADV
 – open the comments tab and log in with your credentials
 – write a few lines about why you think it is a bad idea to have a new billboard there
(more information on how to object here: How to object)

View of the site from the south, with proposed location

If you want to go more in details, here are some arguments you can use in your objection. Unfortunately, environmental arguments are not recognised as valid for objection, which is part of the problem. This does not mean that you should not mention them in your comments. Just please include road safety and amenity as well.

Road safety

The applicant claims that the road leading to the site is ‘uncomplicated’ and that the proposed billboard will not have a significant effect on driving. This is far from accurate. Pedal bikes are not mentioned anywhere in the application, and the bus stop and bus lane are not considered either. About 50 meters before the proposed sign, the bike lane goes from the sidewalk onto the road. The left lane of the road is a bus lane where bikes are allowed. It is common that when a biker there has to overtake a bus that has stopped at the Blenheim Walk Woodhouse Lane stop, drivers drive past anyway, leaving very little space for the bike. It is possible that drivers simply have not noticed the bike or the stopped bus in time, and adding distractions will only make this spot more dangerous.

In addition, people that get off the bus at the bus stop often try to cross the road directly to the proposed site. This means that this location pedestrians, bikers, cars and buses currently share the road. This will likely become more so if the path to cross the site is modified as suggested in the application, which will make an already complicated road section even more dangerous.

Finally, about 100m after the proposed site, there is a rather complicated intersection, again with buses, bikers, pedestrians and cars, which requires drivers to make sure they know on which lane to be before getting to the traffic light. Moving the directional sign further ahead would give less time to drivers that missed or did not understand in time the first directional sign to plan their driving. And the added distraction of the advertisement posted on the billboard will only worsen the situation.

Amenity

Because of the location of the Broadcasting Tower and the Car Park, the site proposed is the only opening where the horizon is not disturbed by any building, when sitting on the grass area. Putting a 3.5 x 6.5 m electronic billboard there would completely close this opening.

The proposal of planting also seems to not have been thought thoroughly. Given the location of existing trees and the location of the proposed billboard, these trees, which typically reach 15 to 25 m tall (see Wikipedia), will not have enough space to fully develop. Also, these trees might cover the view of the billboard to people enjoying the green space in late spring and summer, but as soon as the trees lose their leaves, they will not have the expected covering effect. Also, once planted, the trees will have to be maintained and looked after for some years (depending on the stage they are at when planted). Nowhere on the application the applicant commits to that.

As to the positive effect of bringing trees to the ecosystem, they would largely be overtaken by the light pollution of the billboard itself. Several studies have found that artificial light has a detrimental effect on insects. This article written 6 months ago provides a good overview on the topic.

Finally, regardless of the location, the surroundings or the plans to plant trees on the site, it is becoming more and more evident that Leeds citizens do not want to be bombarded by images irrelevant to their lives. This applies to any aspect of our lives, be it being home, on our way to work or enjoying a walk in the city. The amenity of the place should therefore also be protected in areas that are not considered residential or green areas.

Environment

All along the application, the applicant makes several statements about how their proposed solution is environmentally friendly because it compares better to what they were doing or because it is better than other solutions. By its very nature, advertising cannot be sustainable, and claiming that it is at best ignorant, and at worst a blatant lie. Allowing messages that push for unnecessary consumption and therefore worsen the climate crisis is equivalent to putting the profits of large corporations in front of citizens safety and wellbeing.

Sustainability commitments from JCDecaux

The applicant claims that moving to electronic billboards will avoid large amounts of waste as ‘backlit vinyl [are] disposed via landfill’. However, the last page of the application (shown in the image above) states that ‘100% of paper and vinyl posters are recycled’. Obviously one of the 2 statements is wrong.

The applicant has a full page their environmental achievements and commitments. These claims are not backed by any reference, study or even definition of the terms (for example, what is ‘green energy’?).

The applicant also prides themselves of having electric vehicles in operation. Any environmental benefits from this will be largely outweighed by the environmental impacts of the increased consumption due to the advertisements displayed.

Finally, in the technical specifications, it is written that the billboard will have a typical consumption of 4752 W and a maximal consumption of 15840 W. This is equivalent to 14 and 48 median UK households, respectively (see Defra report here). In a context of climate crisis and to be consistent with the recent declaration of climate emergency by the Leeds City Council, it is not acceptable that such large amounts of energy are spent for the sole benefit of advertising corporations.

Thank you for getting involved!

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