Digital Billboard Application in LS12

There is a new application for two 3×6 m digital billboards at Copley Hill Works, LS12 1HZ (reference 20/06857/ADV). The application seeks to replace four paper billboards with two digital ones, and the deadline for objections is the 18th of November.

Here is how to object:
– follow the link to the planning portal here
– 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 two new billboards there.
(You can a more detailed guide to objections here)

Although it might sound like a good idea to reduce the number of billboards from four to two, the applicant very conveniently omits the impact of the new billboards on three aspects:
1. Amenity: digital billboards are much more strident that paper ones, and will have a huge impact on local residents, who live merely 70 m away from the site!
2. Road safety: several studies show that digital billboard are more distracting to drivers than paper ones. On a location that has seen 11 road incidents in 20 years, adding more distractions is just criminal…
3. Environmental impact: digital billboards consume the same as 14 to 48 UK households, which means that the development would increase the energy consumption on site by a whooping 10 to 40 times!

Digital are highly intrusive, especially at night

The proposed new application is not a “like for like” as claimed by the applicant. Digital displays are inherently very different from their paper counterpart when it comes to visual impact, and will appear as an intrusive feature to the residents of the local area. Even with the proposed levels of luminance, light from the sign may cause nuisance for the residents of Clyde Court and Wortley towers, especially at night. Given the number of flats and houses in the close proximity of the site, the area cannot be considered “predominantly commercial”, and the site is not suitable under the Advertising Design Guide SPD.

Also, the applicant claims that the existing advertisements are “well established” because there has not been “any complaint or objections”. The complexity of the application portal and the fact that personal information appears publicly after submitting objections to such applications seriously hinders the public consultation process. It should by no means be assumed that the fact that people have not officially voiced our their opposition to advertisement means that they have accepted it.

Road safety
The applicant claims that “Drivers are used to distractions in urban areas, whether it be […] traffic signs or adverts”. This statement goes against several research articles on the topic. For example, a paper by Dukic et al. published in 2019 concludes that “Billboards have an effect on gaze behavior by attracting more and longer glances than regular traffic signs”. There have been 12 road incidents within a 50 m radius of the proposed location in the last 10 years, which shows that the site is particularly demanding for drivers and additional distractions should be avoided.

As to the statement that “there is no conclusive evidence to show that a correlation exists between advertising and road safety”, no reference is given to back this claim. But even if it were true, the precautionary principle should be applied until there is evidence that advertising does not negatively affect road safety. The lives of Leeds City residents cannot put at risk for the benefit of advertising companies.

Environmental impact
The applicant claims that the proposed development will “result in savings in energy and material consumption across the entire process”. This claim cannot be made without carrying out a full Life Cycle Assessment, which the applicant does not refer to or adds to the application. No information is provided about the energy consumption of the proposed digital display, but is it reasonable to assume that it will be similar to that of application 19/07383/AVD, which consumes between 42 and 139 MWh per year. As a comparison, a 48-sheet billboard illuminated with external lights turned on 24/7 will consume 1.5 MWh per year.

Decisions on planning applications must take into account the Leeds Core Strategy (adopted in September 2019), which notes in paragraph 2.42 that one of the key challenges is “Ensuring that the physical development and growth of the District is managed in a sustainable way”. Clearly, increase the electricity consumption by more than 10 to 40 times goes against the Core Strategy.

By now you should be conviced that this application is a bad idea. Time to write an objection, and let’s reclaim our shared spaces together!

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