Nearly 2,000 people sign petition calling for removal of ‘distracting’ M32 billboards in Easton

Residents argue the brightly-lit screens ‘blight’ their lives and pose a danger to motorists

Nearly 2,000 people have signed a petition asking the council to remove two huge digital billboards beside the M32 in Easton.

The petition was presented to Bristol City Council on Tuesday (December 7) at a meeting where residents said the brightly-lit screens ‘blighted’ their lives and posed a danger to motorists.

One woman from an immigrant background said it was ‘actively distressing’ when the face of ex-UKIP leader Nigel Farage shone into her bedroom from the bigger of the two hoardings.

The digital advertising screens alongside the southbound side of the motorway received planning permission five years ago.

At the end of the five years, this month and in January, the council can withdraw consent for the billboards and tell the ad agencies to remove them if they think they have harmed the lives of residents or caused a danger to the public.

AdBlock Bristol, a group set up to fight corporate outdoor advertising in the city, collected over 100 personal testimonials from residents affected by the digital screens and launched a petition calling on the council to have the hoardings removed.

More than 1,900 people had signed the petition at the time of writing.

Presenting it at City Hall, Veronica Wignall said the huge advertising screens were harming the lives of residents and were a real danger for people driving past.

She asked the council to take action for the “wellbeing and safety” of people who are affected on a daily basis.

Some of those residents took the time to write to the council to say the advertising screens were a distraction for drivers, detrimental for children, confusing for wildlife, used unacceptable amounts of electricity and caused excessive light pollution.

Those whose bedroom windows look out onto the brightly lit billboards put forward written comments about the toll they took on their mental health.

One local resident wrote: “I live near the giant glowing digital advertising boards in Easton, and they are a real blight on my life frankly!

“Not having a choice about the images and ideas that are literally glowing into my bedroom is really hard.” While a neighbour added:

“Both billboards shine directly into our flat. We live in a very small flat with only two windows.

“From the moment you walk in the door, you’re being confronted with images that you have no choice over whether you see, and cannot turn off.

“On one occasion, the face of ex-UKIP leader Nigel Farage was being beamed out from the larger screen, to advertise the radio show he was hosting, and as a woman from an immigrant background, it was actively distressing having no choice over having Nigel Farage being beamed into my bedroom.

“It’s really detrimental to our wellbeing that we have no choice about adverts being beamed into our house 24/7.”

Another resident added: “The screen is illuminated 24 hours a day and a dull glow shines into my bedroom.

“I find this intrusion in my home oppressive – it is hard to ignore bright flashing lights and I deeply resent these messages being shone into my bedroom.

“The screen is so huge and bright, it is overwhelming and weighs heavily on my wellbeing.

“You would not see these types of screens in wealthier neighbourhoods like Clifton, yet they are inflicted on less well-off areas such as ours.

“This demonstrates to the community that the council do not care about the aesthetic of our area, how it affects us and our mental wellbeing.”

Asked how he felt about the billboards at a press briefing the day after the petition was presented, Bristol mayor Marvin Rees, who lives in Easton, said: “I appreciate people have got the time to do that and we recognise there’s a challenge with advertising.

“I just went through a whole list of city challenges we face right now: £23million in the budget needed to be found, adult social care crisis, concerns over child safety, on top of a worsening housing crisis, the climate and ecological emergencies, trying to get people back onto public transport, congestion problems in the city.

“To be perfectly [frank], I really haven’t had much time agonising over the billboards on the M32.”

The petition was not debated at full council because it did not have enough signatures.

A petition needs at least 3,500 signatures before the organiser can ask for that to happen.