Urgent action needed – Help us fight a new digital ad screen in Vauxhall

Following our first successful billboard opposition earlier this year, Adblock Lambeth is seeking support against the introduction of a new digital billboard in Vauxhall.

If you live or work in Lambeth or travel through Vauxhall then you can help us say no to these plans.

What’s happening?

Billboard company London Lites is proposing to install a new digital billboard at 383 Kennington Lane, replacing an existing poster site with a more intrusive digital screen.

London Lites says the new billboard will display “static” images, when these static adverts will in fact change up to every few seconds. The visual and light disturbance of these models is actually closer to outdoor ads containing animated, moving or video elements.

Why is it bad?

Vauxhall is already overrun with outdoor advertising including many digital billboards. London Lites essentially argue that one more won’t hurt, but they take no interest in the potential impact on locals. 

The billboard will create additional light pollution and distraction for drivers as it will include changing images throughout the day.

Advertising is designed to get your attention and billboard companies know that digital advertising is more effective and therefore worth more to advertisers. They are profiting from your attention!

What can I do?

Objections are quick and easy and they make a big difference. Every year dozens of new advertising displays are blocked by local residents’ opposition across the UK.

As a member of the local community, you, just as anyone else, have the right to give your opinion. Tell your friends and neighbours to object!

How to object:

1. Go to https://planning.lambeth.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=makeComment&keyVal=QXZHESBOFIT00
2. Click ‘Make a Comment’ on the top right.
3. Fill in your details and write why you are opposing the proposition in the comment box.

(If you have any difficulties finding the planning application go to: https://planning.lambeth.gov.uk/online-applications/ and enter the reference number for this planning application: 21/03295/ADV

Lambeth Council don’t make things very clear with their deadlines, but it looks as if they will be moving to make a decision on this as soon as Monday 18th, so submissions should be as soon as possible.

Alternatively, you can email planning@lambeth.gov.uk to let them know you are opposing the proposal and why, but in this case, make sure you include the planning application reference number. For this proposal, that is 21/03295/ADV.

We’ve compiled a few references from Lambeth Council’s own guidance to support you in your objections. Feel free to quote any of those for a stronger impact (see below).

Let’s take a closer look at the reasons for objecting…

Harm to amenity

Our previous billboard challenge was successful on ground of amenity, so once again this may be the most fruitful angle, especially with the site falling within a conservation area.

London Lites argue that because Kennington Lane is already a major road corridor and a commercial site, roadside adverts do not present public nor highway safety issues, nor do they hurt the local amenity (the character of the area).

The company argues that “this advertisement will not have an adverse effect on the character of the surrounding”, however we believe that corporate advertising that makes the local area less relatable for locals and damages the local economy.

Although Vauxhall has already been damaged in the last few years with many digital ad screens added to the area, turning it into a ‘busy transport hub’, Vauxhall is still a residential area, full of independent businesses and with a vibrant nightlife. It still hosts a community and a local economy, which the proposed new digital screen would further damage. By deeming the area ‘a busy transport hub’ ‘predominantly commercial in character’, the application dismisses the impact that such an ad screen would have on the area’s residents, amenity and businesses.

The application forms also shows us that London Lites failed to consult the local community before submitting its proposal.

Harm to safety

In its Guidance for Digital Roadside Advertising and Proposed Best Practice, Transport For London affirms: “research has shown that the period of change is an area where there could be some additional distraction to drivers” (paragraph 4.13).

The proposed replacement billboard displays images changing as fast as every five seconds, that is as much as 12 ads per minute. This is a major safety concern for road users because most drivers, cyclists or motorists would see more than one advert in the time they pass by the billboard.

This form of distraction (through movement) purposefully distracts drivers, cyclists and road users for them to look at the screen. With many different forms of road users (cars, buses, motorcycles and other vehicles, cyclists, electric scooters and pedestrians) all being distracted, this ends up being pretty dangerous for everyone.

Sensory overload

Sensory overload is the state where our senses are overwhelmed by external and environmental stimuli to the point of being unable to process and respond to all of them.

The symptoms of sensory overload include agitation, anxiety, irritability, sleeping difficulties, lack of focus or panic attacks and it has been known to increase everyday stress, as well as more severe conditions like chronic migraines and mental health issues.

Although anyone can experience sensory overload, it is particularly common in children and as well as people who are neurodivergent, suffer from migraines or post-traumatic stress disorder or with mental health issues.
This means that the population that will be affected most by those screens are the vulnerable population. We believe that the Council wants to protect and not persecute those populations further, therefore they should seriously consider the screen’s impact on them.

For an idea of scale, in the UK it is estimated that one in six children have sensory processing difficulties, between 30% and 40% of the population are thought to be neurodiverse and one in five women suffer from migraines.

We’ve written a few examples (see below) that you can adapt in the comment box. Feel free to take anything from this text, but it is also important to write the reasons why it matters to you, as well as how you use the area (e.g. daily commute through the road, live nearby, etc.).

Remember that safety and amenity are the formal legal grounds with which planning applications for new advertising hoardings can be rejected.

Ultimately, we’d rather the billboard isn’t replaced at all and it may be worth suggesting this in your opposition comment.

Examples of objections:

“The proposition of erecting a digital billboard is not only unasked for but also hugely detrimental for local residents’ mental health and community spirit. Given the content of most corporate advertisements, the billboard could seriously undermine Vauxhall’s local character which has already been damaged a lot by all the digital advertising popping up. Most adverts would work against positive messages for equality, body image and the climate emergency that the council supports (or should support). I would instead support removing the existing hoarding all together, and maybe commission a mural or paint the wall a nice colour.”

“Our streets are not a video game and we all deserve some consideration, especially the vulnerable residents. Stop the ableist politics of public spaces.”

“Maybe the billboard would be less dominant but it would be way more intrusive: there are different types of disturbance and light distraction, and this one would clearly be distracting us through movement (via change of adverts). The attention economy uses many ways to get users attention, size and luminance are not the only ones. Adverts changing every 5 seconds would be very intrusive to my commute as I drive past often. The roads at this junction are dangerous enough, and already so full of distracting digital adverts, it’s dystopian.”

“The company London Lites did not properly consult the local community before submitting its proposal. I doubt the community would have agreed to this if they were aware. The time limit to object on the portal was short enough.”

“This would hurt the local economy such a the lovely cafes next door to it, and it would hurt the area, furthering the damage already done by the other advertising screens around Lambeth road/Wandsworth road and Vauxhall station. Enough is enough!”

I regularly cycle by the site on my commute and Vauxhall is already a dangerous nightmare to cycle through, with all the digital advertising everywhere and every driver, cyclist or pedestrian potentially affected by those at any time. Please don’t install any more.

The screens on which ads change every 5 seconds are overwhelming, highly intrusive and dangerous, and a lot of people like myself get sensory overload from being in or commuting through places like these deemed “commercial”.

“As a chronic migraine sufferer, I find public spaces more and more inhospitable. As a reminder, in the UK, about a fifth of the women suffers from migraines, while between 30% and 40% of the population are thought to be neurodivergent. Please stop ableist politics of public spaces, we ALL deserve to use those.”

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