24 billboards – Blade Runner future threatens Lambeth

Planning applications for 24 new freestanding illuminated billboards were submitted in one big corporate-colonial dump on Lambeth planning portal in November. Under the plans, these neo-modern monoliths will stand sentinel to the nightmare of want for miles of heavily-footed pavement across the borough.

Picture Harrison Ford grimly pounding the streets of urban dystopia, haunted by digital ghosts that maraud the scenery around him. Or more aptly, in the sickeningly sumptuous post-digital Blade Runner 2042; the AI dream girls who advertise their immortal and unattainable immaculateness while looming larger than life and inescapable across the interfaced urban landscape of the not-too-distant future.

This is the frightening vision that threatens our borough due to the increasing ubiquity of digital advertisements; ever-more interactive and intrusive. We need your help to oppose these optimised sales slabs – an opening skirmish in the battle for peaceful, art filled streets.

You can join the fightback by signing this petition– please pass it on to anyone sympathetic to the cause.

Adblock Lambeth’s 100% success rate is in jeopardy; despite our 4 successful billboard objections this is our sternest test yet. Unlike our previous objections, these proposals have been made by Lambeth Council themselves, and they have signed a 10-year deal with the billboard company Clear Channel for the 24 digital boards.

Planning rules state that a billboard can be objected on the grounds of safety or amenity, and it is the impact on visual amenity has so far been our route to success. If you sign the petition and want to object to any of the individual applications, please make sure to highlight the negative impact that the proposals will have on character of the local area.

Take Wandsworth Road for example. It is in the throes of development, characterised by a new tube station and a hodgepodge of architectural styles – with mini mansions, two-storey council houses and high rise flats crammed uncomfortably close along the busy main road. Walking along there posting flyers for another digital billboard opposition recently, I got the feeling this could be a rich and lively urban space with lots of communities jostling to set the character of the place; but there’s a real risk that will win out here.

It’s hard not to see this as a class issue or a culture war in our urban spaces. Lower income residents in less appealing areas are denied the kinds of living spaces deemed worthy of aesthetic investment or protection and instead fall prey to the invasion of propaganda for consumer capitalism. Is it any surprise that Coldharbour Lane, the poorest ward in Lambeth, is earmarked for 3 of these new boards – more than any other area?

These advertisements harm local people. They take up mental space with their shouting, flashing images and distract road users. They impact mental health by portraying unattainable body ideals or lifestyles and promote harmful products like junk food or high carbon emitters like cars and cheap flights. Meanwhile well-to-do homeowners in quaint pockets of our sprawling city are granted the right to live in peace; nestled in side-streets dripping in cultural capital.

But it’s not the outright valuing of rich residents with clout over poor residents in built up or un-historic areas that will lose us this fight. The injustice goes deeper. Because this is a council-tendered contract for advertisements from which it will earn much-needed income. It needs this money because successive Tory governments have consistently eroded funding for essential local services. And who is it that needs these services the most? Certainly not the cultural elite living in ad-free bliss across the post code.

That is why we have to fight this battle. We must demonstrate our distaste for the corporate invasion of our urban living space and raise awareness of its damaging effects whilst opening up a conversation about how our councils are run and for whom they work. Fight for a free, unincorporated mind and your right to access health care, youth clubs and waste management without poorer communities paying the price.

What can i do about it?

To oppose these billboards please sign our petition here. We will send this to Lambeth Council on your behalf

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!

If you have a spare 5 minutes, you can oppose a specific billboard being erected near you by clicking on the site nearest to you listed below. The more personalised your response, the more effective it will be.

Example comments for objection inspiration

“Why bother with creating safe spaces for pedestrians if it’s to take half of the walking space with advertising boards standing exactly in the way. It’s more and more difficult to walk around with a pushchair or a suitcase as we slalom between all the advertising spaces in our way on the pavement! We don’t need advertising, we need space for all pedestrians, especially as Lambeth move towards being a greener borough.”

“Those free standing ad units are as close as possible to the road and clearly aimed at road users. Changing them to digital screens is a very bad idea! The lights do bother road users: I find it impossible to focus on the road ahead, those digital ad screens take my eyes off the road every single time I cycle past one. Cycling or driving in the city is dangerous enough, adding distractions to that is mad!”

“This is not dystopian 2050, this is not Blade Runner either. I love my neighbourhood, its architecture and its local shop fronts – every digital advertising screen added to my streets just defaces everything around it and steps over all the local character. I can’t stand stepping in a shopping mall, I get sensory overload, why is the council turning my neighbourhood into one?”

“Can we actually rely on public services for street lights and not advertising? The streets are meant to be a public space and not corporation-owned. Thank you.”

“Lambeth Council was the first London borough to declare a climate emergency. It cannot possibly be serious in proposing a series of twenty-four new digital ad screens, lit at almost all hours of the day. Considering the irreparable harm that those kind of screens would cause in the now near-future, the current climate crisis is a matter of public health and public safety, therefore these applications are a danger to public health. To protect its residents and people everywhere, it must be stopped.”

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