New misleading report for planning application 20/06857/ADV

Hi AdBlockers,

The deadline for objections to two new digital advertising displays already passed. However, on January 20th an “independent highway safety report” was submitted by the applicant. Since this is a whole new piece of documentation, we trust that we have at least a couple of weeks to submit new objections in connection to this report.

So here is the story of this ad application in short. The actual Highway team objected to this application as “digital adverts at this location would be detrimental to pedestrian and vehicle safety“. The highway team is the authority in charge of assessing road safety. You can read their full recommendation in the list of documents. Then the applicant decided to hire a consultancy firm to submit an “independent” report suggesting that there is nothing wrong with having some flashy and distracting ads at the junction of four roads after all.

Their report cannot be considered independent as it was funded by the ad company itself. It also does not take into consideration Leeds citizens’ interest beyond corporate profits. It even misquotes scientific articles to hide the concerns from the scientific comunity about digital billboards and road safety. It is actually completely misleading and unethical.

Below is an objection that we wrote to the planning officer. Feel free to copy or resubmit a version of it if you, just like us, want to object to advertising companies pouring money into misleading communication every time their profit making is inconveniently disrupted by concerns about people’s interests, safety and well-being. And here is a link to a previous post that we wrote about this application, with more arguments to object.

Dear planning officer,

I would like to submit an objection to this development and I trust that it will be considered since a new document has been sent by the applicant. As a regular cyclist in the area, I am strongly concerned about how cyclist and pedestrian safety will be affected by the new development, with the distraction for drivers that it presents. These concerns were in agreement with the evaluation of the highway team and their recommendation to reject this application. The new document challenges the highway team’s recommendation based on largely misleading and even unethical claims.

The report should not be considered independent as Croft has been contracted by the applicant to largely serve their interest rather than the interest of Leeds citizens. This is very clear from the following:

– Croft are knowingly omitting quotes from the scientific literature that they cite that go against their own claims for the safety of this development. In their report (paragraph 4.5.1), Croft cites a scientific article giving an incomplete quote. They quote the article saying the evidence on a direct relationship between driving behaviour and roadside advertising is inconclusive. Literally the next sentence in the same article states the following:

“[…] there is an emerging trend in the literature suggesting that roadside advertising can increase crash risk, particularly those signs with changeable messages. (Oviedo-Trespalacios et al., 2019).”

Purposefully omitting evidence that goes against their interests is downright unethical. I cannot even comprehend how the authors of the report can justify literally putting people’s lives on the line in order to defend their profit making. Furthermore, there is clear scientific evidence that billboards (digital or paper) increase the number of crashes. Another article concludes that:

“Removing the billboards was associated with a decrease of 30 to 40% in injury crashes”.

–  This location is already extremely difficult to navigate even without new ad interference. There are the several roads going into Tong Road and Wellington road at this location and there are bus stops located at both sides of the site, which makes the visibility worse and implies that pedestrians getting off the bus cross the road there. There is no pedestrian crossing nearby. Those that get off buses will be then crossing the road near the site. There is no physical separation between the two traffic directions, meaning that pedestrians crossing close to the site spend more time on the road.  In the words of the Highway team consulted in connection to this application, “digital adverts at this location would be detrimental to pedestrian and vehicle safety”.

– The report is also full of flaws and inconsistencies. It miscalculates the time that drivers would need to assimilate ads as it assumes that ads are visible from the moment motorists enter the road and that they pay attention to nothing else but these ads. These assumptions are often not true, so drivers likely have less time to assimilate the ads than the estimated 17-38 sec. Ads that are cleverly designed and put there for the sole purpose of distracting the drivers away from the road! The digital ads are by design more prominent, visually strident and they bring additional distractions with a new ad every 10 sec. As the highway team suggests, this is not safe in such a commonly used road.

I hope that, in the best interest of Leeds residents, the Leeds City Council will reject this application.

Kind regards,

A concerned Leeds citizen

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