Digital billboard proposed for Albert Road junction

Here is a summary of what happened with this proposed application.

It was considered by Planning Committee on 10th June 2020. Officers voted to defer this decision and asked Council planning officers to research the statistical impact on accidents by existing billboard screens in Bristol.

It was considered again by Planning Committee on 8th July 2020. At this meeting Officers presented their research to the Councillors. The Councillors voted to reject the application on the grounds of Highway Safety (7 to dismiss it, 0 to permit it and 3 abstentions). In addition the Chair of the meeting made direct reference to the need to have a specific advertising planning policy. A great success! However…

In October/November 2020 the applicant appealed this decision. However instead of the usual appeals route, this application was put through a process called the Commercial Appeals Service by the Planning Inspectorate. This is unusual and we are not sure why this happened, and one consequence is that we were unable to submit comments to the PI about the decision. Bristol City Council planners asked the Planning Inspectorate to use the usual process, but were denied. 

In December 2020 the Planning Inspectorate overturned the Councillors decision – giving permission for Global to install their digital screen on this roundabout.

Update 8th June 2020
This application will be considered by committee on Wednesday 10th June. You can email the Councillors before that date to ask them to reject the application.

Here’s a message that you can copy and paste:


Dear Councillors, 

As a Bristol resident, I do not wish to see a digital billboard installed at Albert Road, and ask you to reject application 20/01254/A this Wednesday, on the grounds of: 

Amenity – I am concerned about protecting public spaces in the city and do not wish to see this kind of commercialisation – especially as the area is already industrial in nature. This development would make things worse, not better. 

Road Safety – digital billboards are distracting for all road users, and at this busy junction pedestrians and cyclists would be more vulnerable to collisions with large industrial vehicles. 

Environment – erecting new resource and energy intensive advertising screens would be in contradiction with Bristol’s Climate Emergency Declaration and the Mayor’s One City Strategy.With thanks,

[Your Name]
[Your Address]

Advertising giant Global have applied for permission to replace one of six paper billboards at this Albert Road junction with a digital billboard.

To object to this proposed development:
1. Go to and enter code: 20/01254/A
2. Click ‘Make a Comment’. 
3. Write as much as you’d like about your objections. You could include the following bases for dismissal:

  • Road safety
    It is clear that the applicant’s motivation in installing advertising infrastructure is to benefit from the attention of passers by, including motorists, thus splitting the drivers attention and potentially increasing the risk of road traffic collisions. This is supported by research funded by the Swedish Transport Administration in 2010 and published in the Journal ‘Traffic Injury Prevention’, entitled “Effects of electronic billboards on driver distraction“, which found that “Billboards have an effect on gaze behaviour by attracting more and longer glances than regular traffic signs.”

    It goes on to say “Whether the billboards attract attention too much, that is, whether they are a traffic safety hazard, cannot be answered conclusively based on the present data” and this is echoed by the Transport for London/Watermans ‘Guidance for Digital Roadside Advertising and Proposed Best Practice’ (2013) which found that while there is not enough empirical evidence to prove that digital roadside advertising causes traffic collisions, “is also clear that in certain circumstances, advertisements can contribute to driver distraction.

    The fact that the proposed site is a junction with multiple roads meeting, and a high proportion of HGVs due to surrounding industrial sites, make it particularly inappropriate for electronic advertising infrastructure. Furthermore, while the applicant cannot produce evidence to support the idea that digital advertising categorically does not contribute to road collisions, this proposed development should not be allowed to experiment with Bristolians’ safety.

    The impact of road advertising signs on driver behaviour and implications for road safety: A critical systematic review, by Oscar Oviedo-Trespalacios; Verity Truelove; Barry Watson; Jane A. Hinton identified and reviewed 90 documents exploring the impact of advertising on road safety. It found that: “while most studies remain inconclusive, there is an emerging trend in the literature suggesting that roadside advertising can increase crash risk, particularly for those signs that have the capacity to frequently change (often referred to as digital billboards).” 

    Information from shows that there have been multiple road traffic incidents in this area in recent years. This includes two ‘slight’ incidents on the roundabout in question in 2015 & 2016, and a further three ‘slight’ incidents in 2016 & 2017 on Albert Road, resulting in a total of 6 casualties. This supports the claim that this application should be dismissed on the grounds of road safety.

    The following is a supporting quotation taken from the Appeal Decision for application 19/03338/A. This was for a similar application at Feeder Road, which was rejected by Bristol City Council . Both are complex junctions; this one involving multiple exits from the roundabout, frequented by industrial vehicles and already featuring several billboards. R C Kirby BA (Hons) DipTP MRTPIan, Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State, stated:

    I note that the incident severity for all these accidents is described as ‘slight’, but the fact that collisions have occurred bolsters my assessment that at this junction, drivers in particular are faced with navigating a highly-trafficked space where their full attention is required, due to the amount of street furniture and the presence of cyclists and pedestrians. I am mindful of the Planning Practice Guidance which advises that proposed advertisements at points where drivers need to take more care (such as junctions) are more likely to affect public safety, and that there are less likely to be road safety problems if the advertisement is not on the skyline.
The location (with proposed billboard on the right) from an alternative angle, demonstrating industrial traffic.
  • Cumulative impact
    The billboard in this application is one of six static billboards currently located at this junction. In addition, Albert Road is in the vicinity of Feeder Road and St Phillips Causeway, where three other such applications were recently considered by Bristol City Council.

    These were:
    19/03338/A -rejected by BCC on the basis of amenity and road safety.
    19/03302/A – rejected by BCC on the basis of amenity and road safety.
    19/04185/A – (at Avonmeads shopping centre, currently under appeal) This is less than 0.5miles from the Albert Road location where Insite Poster Properties already have permission for one screen (18/05167/A) and are appealing to be permitted to install another one. Altogether, this development could mean drivers being exposed to multiple digital advert screens within 3 minutes of driving – only taking into account proceeding applications and not considering future applications yet to come.

    In this application, Global state that it is “part of a national project, which is being carried out by the country’s leading media owners, with the aim of bringing the advertising industry’s stock of traditional billboards into the 21st century.” This sentiment has been echoed in other recent applications including those made by different applicants. It is clear that the ultimate goal is to have multiple digital billboard screens through the city, and this ought to be taken into consideration for each individual application.
The proposed billboard (left) is one of several already located at the site.
  • Amenity
    The application states that “The industrial street scene is suitable for commercial advertising”. However, in reality, these roads are frequented by Bristolians trying to go about their business. It is in the interests of the residents of this city, who should be able to do this without being exposed to digital adverts. Furthermore, the amenity of those employed at the nearby industrial sites would be disproportionately affected, as they would experience a much higher rate of exposure to advertising material.

    In addition, the application disingenuously states that there would be “no increase in advertising in the street scene” [because the intended digital screen is the same size as the existing static billboard.] It is obvious however, that the rate of advertising would rise as digital screens change their content more frequently, dramatically increasing the number of adverts seen by someone who may pass this junction during the day to and from work, for example.

    Clearly, the fact that adverts illuminated by a digital screen can be clearly seen through the hours of darkness necessitates an increase in advertising in the street scene. The fact that the applicant proposes that “The luminance of the digital display shall not exceed 300 candelas per square metre (cd/m2) between dusk and dawn”, and does not suggest turning off the screen at night, supports this, and shows that this development will ultimately be more intrusive than the existing billboard, even if luminance is restricted at night.
A ‘before and after’ image copied from the planning application, in which the applicant suggests there will be no difference between the paper billboard (left) and the electronically illuminated billboard (right).
  • Environment
    The applicant suggests a key reason for this development is efficiency, because digital billboards use less paper. However research by Adblock Bristol has shown that these large digital billboards can use as much electricity as 10 UK homes. This application does not include information about the specific energy needs of this development, however we can be sure that there will be an electricity cost. This is an unnecessary development, and one that is incompatible with Bristol City Council’s climate emergency declaration.

    There is also evidence that light pollution – including that caused by digital advertising screens – is a contributing factor to the decline of insect populations. Bristol Council has also declared an ecological emergency, and therefore any development that does not consider or support the health of insect populations should not be permitted.

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5 thoughts on “Digital billboard proposed for Albert Road junction

  1. For anyone who thinks electronic billboards are a good idea, take a look at Manila/Makati. It is an absolute nightmare! These things ‘grow like Topsy’ once they are allowed to start (it is happening already along motorways into Birmingham and London). It is extremely distracting as a driver and an eyesore which, if not stopped, eventually means that one can’t see the horizon!

  2. We are already bombarded with ads on every website, on our phone apps and on TV, and now they want to put ANOTHER screen in our faces showing nothing but ads. Who ever bought anything off the back of seeing a billboard anyway?

  3. The proposed screen on the side of 16 Newbridge Road was refused, but has now gone to appeal.

    19/05142/A | Upgrade of existing 48 sheet advert to support internally illuminated digital poster. | 16 Newbridge Road Bristol BS4 4DJ

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