Blackpool Road residents demand action over 'intrusive' and 'blinding' 20ft billboard

Families living near a giant illuminated billboard in Preston say they are being kept awake at night due to light pollution.

Monday, 29th April 2019, 2:38 pm
Updated Monday, 29th April 2019, 3:45 pm
The controversial digital billboard in Blackpool Road, Preston.

The massive digital billboard in Ashton is the first in the city and is mounted to the side of the Parkview Cafe in Blackpool Road.

But sleep-deprived residents say the glare from the digital billboard, which stands approximately 10 ft high and 19 ft wide, is keeping them up at night.

Dr Brian Hitchen, who lives in nearby Waterloo Road, said residents should have been consulted before it was revealed in August 2018.

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"It is an absolute intrusion. The light is keeping us awake at night because it is shining straight into our bedroom.

"It also shines into our kitchen and dining room, but it is the bedroom which concerns us because we are struggling to sleep at night.

"The first we heard about it was when it appeared overnight. We were never consulted before it went up. We have now taken it up with the council.”

Barry Higham, who also lives nearby, said: "This sign is

Preston City Council said it has received a number of complaints from residents regarding light pollution caused by the giant illuminated screen.

The authority confirmed it is investigating the billboard to establish whether it has breached planning guidelines and environmental health regulations.

A spokesman for Preston City Council said: "The Council’s Planning and Environmental Health teams are investigating complaints received regarding the illuminated billboard on Blackpool Road.

"Working together with the company who manage the billboard, we are ensuring it meets the planning guidelines originally set out and is in line with environmental health regulations."

The controversial billboard is owned and operated by Preston-based digital signage firm, Wallace Digital. The company said it plans to bring more digital billboards to Preston later this year.

A company spokesman said: “There have recently been a number of false and misleading statements made about Wallace Digital and our digital advertising billboard on Blackpool Road so we feel it is important to correct/ clarify a number of points.

“The board is owned solely by Edgar Wallace, a local businessman with substantial investments in Preston. Planning permission was granted to Edgar Wallace in April 2018. The board was installed and has been operating since August 2018.

“For a short period of time we were looking to operate the board in partnership with Simon Rigby under the name of Guild Visuals. However, due to professional differences of opinion, Edgar Wallace resigned from Guild Visuals and we continued this venture with absolutely no links to Simon Rigby or Guild Visuals.

“In January 2019, five months after the board had begun operating, we became aware that two complaints had been made to the Environmental Health Department regarding the board’s light levels at night – one from a local resident and one from a councillor who is a non-resident.

“We immediately contacted the environmental health department to determine the potential issue and begin dialogue.

"We voluntarily and pro-actively began testing the light levels to see if we could reduce these and as a result we voluntarily lowered the board to 75cdm2 at night.

"For reference, street lamps operate around 300cdm2. We also chose to remove any adverts with full white backgrounds. We received confirmation from the EHO that they were not taking further action over the complaints.

“We installed the Digital Billboard as a means to support local businesses and charities.

"Every day we see empty shops on the streets of Preston – Blackpool Road being no exception. Our aim is to help local businesses to be able to get themselves noticed in a way that is normally only accessible for big brands – and provide a much needed boost to the local economy.

"We have had some fantastic feedback from our customers who have used the board so far.”

It is not the first time the site has drawn criticism over its choice of advertising.

In 2009, the giant image of a semi-nude woman advertising a lap dancing club led to a number of complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority.