You might remember the story: one day, residents of Bradford road in Otley found out that a 3x6m digital billboard was going to be built just opposite their houses, merely meters away from their windows. They naturally were opposed to it, talked to their neighbours, raised objections from everyone in their street (more than 50 people!), and wrote to the planning officer and to the media. But because the deadline for comments had already passed, the application went through without considerations of their views and the billboard has now been put in place.
Once the billboard got installed however, it was so bright that it was blinding drivers. The local residents complained to the Environmental Health Department and the company operating the billboard and it turned out that the billboard was not respecting the legal levels of luminance (surprise! ad companies often ignore national regulations). So the billboard is now turned off awaiting for a new light sensor after which is expected to be switched on again. The residents also got an article in the press about this billboard.
More recently, Otley residents started campaigning against another application for two digital billboards half a mile away from this one. They are currently raising many objections and also got an article out for the new application. If you can support their cause and send an objection as well, that will be of huge help!
Two important lessons from this case. Once a billboard is installed, we are quite limited in terms of lawful actions we can take to object to it. What this shows is that it is extremely important to get as many objections as possible while the application is on. So let’s keep voicing our concerns and campaign for happier and healthier cities through the application portal!
Another important lesson from this case is that local campaigns are important. How do those living on the same street or regularly commuting through the area feel about a new bright screen? It matters! We are yet to see what will happen with the new application, but Otley folks have already successfully attracted the attention of their neighbours, the local media and even local MP Alex Sobel is getting involved. Such collective efforts are powerful and inspiring! We’ll be keeping an eye on this application and are fully supporting the local residents on this case.
Keep it up Otley!
EDIT: on the 12th of July, the application was withdrawn by the applicant. Congrats to the people of Otley for getting their voices heard!