Better without billboards: residents want North Street Green’s big brand ads to go

Residents near North Street Green are calling for two huge billboards to be removed. They want to get rid of the big corporate adverts and create a new improved vision for this valued green space, with the local community at its heart.

North Street Green is on the border between Bedminster and Southville and makes a great spot to meet friends, take a break from work or play table tennis. But residents say the two billboards flanking the corner of the green spoil the area, calling them ‘eyesores’, ‘far too big’ and ‘visual smog’. Local group Adblock BS3 is inviting people to sign a petition calling on Western Power Distribution – which owns the substation behind the billboards – to end its contract with the advertising company Global, take down the billboards and work with the local community to transform the space.

Nicola Round from Adblock BS3 said: ‘Before lockdown we spoke to dozens of people who live and work near the green, and found that people overwhelmingly feel that their neighbourhood would be better without the billboards. Over the past year people have been appreciating more than ever their local green spaces, as well as the importance of local businesses. These huge big-brand adverts not only spoil the green, they undermine support for the local economy by favouring big corporations over local independent businesses.’ 

The Bedminster Business Improvement District (BID) represents over 350 businesses in the area. They said: ‘We want to be the high street of the future, not the past, where shopping local and independent has a positive effect on our community. We believe that corporate outdoor advertising can undermine our local economy by preferencing large corporations over local businesses. The billboards themselves give a negative impression of our local area, suggesting it is not highly valued or a pleasant place to stop and spend time. There are already dozens of billboards in the Bedminster area and we wish to see these numbers reduced.’

Chris Cierpik, of Rare Butchers of Southville, said: ‘North Street Green is dwarfed by two unsightly billboards, goading us into buying something we just don’t need, or in the case of food advertising, buying food that in most cases is detrimental to health. What makes North Street so special is the great independent businesses and we can do without the eyesore of billboards defacing our street.’

Local resident Kate Swatridge said: ‘I live right opposite North Street Green with my family. We love it here, but these big billboards are so out of place. We can’t help but look at the adverts every day, it’s unavoidable and they are very intrusive. Having a 2-year-old, sometimes the imagery (especially film ads) can even be scary or violent. In a mainly residential area, people should not have to be subjected to this advertisement pollution day in and day out. We never asked for it, and the benefit to the corporation doing the business shouldn’t outweigh the cost to us all living here.’

Households close by will receive an activity pack this month which invites them to share their ideas for improving North Street Green, without the billboards. The pack, designed by Bedminster creatives OSH, can also be downloaded and printed, or you can request a printed pack to be delivered to you by visiting www.adfreecities.org.uk/north-street-green. The activity pack invites residents to design their own billboard-free space, offer their thoughts on how the green could be used and improved, and to share their ideas and designs on social media or by post. 

Round said: ‘This is not just about our local neighbourhood, but about the impact of corporate advertising on the whole city and beyond. Bristol is covered in unwanted and intrusive corporate advertising, which is driving overconsumption and environmental damage. The majority of adverts on billboards are for big brands promoting products like junk food, fast fashion, cars or supermarkets. We’re not saying that people should never buy these things. But let’s make more space for supporting wellbeing, nature or local organisations, and less for the voices of the big corporations who bring little benefit to our community. Adblock Bristol will continue to fight every new planning application for digital billboards, and work for more positive alternatives for our public spaces.’

In March this year over 230 people objected to a planning application for a digital billboard near Parson Street station, leading to the council refusing permission.

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