‘This is Bristol, not Bladerunner’ – Local residents demand removal of huge, invasive digital advertising screens

Two digital billboards that tower over the M32 motorway on the approach into Bristol are about to run out of planning permission, and residents are calling for their removal. 

The billboards were granted permission in 2016  and 2017 respectively, for an initial period of five years. Now that this time is coming to an end, Bristol City Council has powers to discontinue permission, and local people are putting pressure on city planners to take action against these giant advertising screens.  

The call is being coordinated by campaign group Adblock Bristol, who have collected over 100 testimonials from local people showing the devastating impact of these digital advertising screens. In a survey circulated to residents, the group asked people living and working near the M32 gateway to relate their experience of the two screens. Their report shows huge concerns across multiple issues including mental health, social cohesion, commuter safety, climate and the environment and disadvantages to small local businesses.

Polly, from Easton, said:

“My home looks out on to the motorway. Everytime I look out of my bedroom window I see a large digital screen glaring at me. It obscures my view- it is grotesque and bright and makes me feel angry that companies are flashing their advertisements in my home and trying to sell me their product. I find it very intrusive in my life. The screens lower my mood and make me feel sad.”

Alice, from Redfield, said:

“They’re harmful to nature and I resent being constantly marketed at in the place where I live. They are also distracting to drivers and I think they lower the tone of the whole city. I really dislike them and it makes me feel negatively towards the Council.”

Adblock Bristol hopes this damning evidence will be enough to convince Bristol City Council to take action and remove the two digital billboards. The group have launched a petition asking Mayor Marvin Rees to support the removal of the screens.

Removing the billboards would be a pioneering move, making Bristol the first known city to take such an action as global advertising companies move to dominate city-scapes nationwide. Bristol City Council have previously come under intense pressure from advertising giants such as ClearChannel, JCDecaux and Global when resisting new billboard applications. Since 2019, advertising companies have appealed against the Council rejecting new billboards in the City thirteen times. 

Calum from Adblock Bristol, who lives in Stokes Croft, said:

“Companies like Global are like playground bullies, getting their way by force and ignoring anyone who argues against them. But now people are standing up – we know these billboards are causing heartache from the people who actually live here and it’s time they were gone. Global want to rule the world, but this is our city.”

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