BIG-SCREENS BID FOR GEORGE STREET

ADVERTS ALL OVER THE PLACE, 24/7 

Last month we reported how the multinational JC Decaux (JCD) had outlined plans for – and sought feedback on – equipping George Street (Issue 256).

It now seeks planning permission for 5 bus shelters and 4 stand-alone ‘community information panels’ (CIPs). 

Where theyd be and what they're not

JCD wants to place the bus shelters outside Nos 10, 13B, 47, 60, and 63 George Street. 

The proposed structures are not really a bespoke design for the Edinburgh World Heritage site. They might eventually include some locally specific curlicues, but essentially the designs have been used worldwide, in cities as far apart as New York, Bordeaux and Paris. Any knobs-on are irrelevant.

Yes, we need bus shelters – preferably attractive, efficient, ergonomically designed and in the fewest, most easily accessed spots possible.

But the main point about these ones is their revenue-generating, illuminated and double-sided, 1.9 sq.m digital screens with non-flashing but still moving advertisements grabbing you by the retinas (and hoping to part you from your dosh) all around the clock. At base, they’re about money.

JCD says generating revenue allows the shelters etc. to be cleaned and serviced. But, obviously, it also turns a profit for JC Decaux.

Sceptics don’t think the structures would sufficiently shelter passengers from George Street’s various combinations of wind, rain, diesel fumes and cocktail-vomit. Nor can they imagine many times when Edinburgh passengers would appreciate the glass roofs’ special treatment which reduces the heat of the sun’s rays by 50 per cent.

Nevertheless, JCD claims that similar shelters already on Princes Street are proving popular. Hmm. Possibly. But on George Street, Spurtle's not convinced they’d sit anything like so well.

The proposed ‘Community Information Panels’ – by any other name, free-standing advertisement hoardings with occasional informational tosh curated by the Council (for one in 12 cycles) – would be 2.5m high, with even more double-sided 1.9m.sq screens.

Pause for a moment. That’s right. One in 12 cycles of Council-selected dull or annoying worthiness. And 11 in 12 cycles of even more irritating private ADVERTISING. Logically, to be termed CIPs, they should include at least seven out of 12 cycles of CEC tosh, but neither option is appealing.

 

The CIPs would stand outside Nos 48, erroneously cited as at No. 50 in the Planning Statement part 1 (4.9m–2.5m), 80 (4.0m–2m), 83 (5m–3m) and 93 (7m–5m) George Street. (Figures in brackets show the width of the pavements in each spot before and after installation.)

Sustainable development

JC Decaux regards the screens as ‘sustainable development’, since they are the most power-efficient in their class and have a ‘dynamic dimming capability’ which reduces ‘impact on the environment’.

Be that as it may, they are completely unnecessary and have a lot more impact than no digital screens at all.

Public consultation

JC Decaux’s account of its various consultations reports in detail high levels of support for its proposals. We are always sceptical about such surveys. Patrons, pipers, tunes.

Its very carefully worded account does not report in such detail the misgivings of critics like the Cockburn Association and Edinburgh World Heritage. Or the fact that those attending JC Decaux’s presentation to the September meeting of locals at the New Town & Broughton Community Council (both councillors and members of the public) voted unanimously against the CIPs and only marginally in favour of the bus shelters.

We wonder whether Community Information Panels would, if approved, ever report such contentious and inconvenient responses from local communities.

Not happy bunnies

For the reasons laid out before (see Breaking news 22.7.16; Issue 256), Spurtle considers the digital advertising elements of both bus shelters and so-called CIPs to be visually intrusive clutter. They would distract from the street’s neo-classical cool. They would spoil what is one of the main jewels in Edinburgh’s crown. Lets be clear – they would mostly serve commercial rather than civic purposes.

Are City of Edinburgh Council (‘committed’ to the thoroughfare’s past and future) capable of improving George Street without ruining it at the first whiff of a cost-saving? Is the Scottish Government (whose Reporters seem hell-bent on favouring developers at all costs) to be trusted with George Street’s built heritage?

We’re not sure. We certainly don’t think planning permission should be granted until the more detailed design specifications which will build on Ironside Farrars report are properly worked through.

See the plans for yourself at:

16/05010/ADV (bus shelter, 13B George Street)

16/05012/ADV (bus shelter, 10 George Street)

16/05013/ADV (bus shelter, 47 George Street)

16/05014/ADV (bus shelter, 60 George Street)

16/05015/ADV (bus shelter, 63 George Street)

16/05016/ADV (CIP, 48 George Street)

16/05017/ADV (CIP, 83 George Street)

16/05018/ADV (CIP, 93 George Street)

16/05019/ADV (CIP, 80 George Street)

Got a view? Tell us at spurtle@hotmail.co.uk and @theSpurtle and Facebook 

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 Neale Gilhooley Just a guise to get more hideous 24 hour adverts onto our eyeballs with no regard what so ever for the environment they would be standing out from. We don't need them and don't want them. Not building them reduces ‘impact on the environment' by 100%.

  Paul Burgess Totally out of place in a historical conservation area.

 Michael Mochrie I'll say no ta to the screens.

 Paul Foley Gtf JCD

 Tzipporah Johnston Why do the council hate locals so much

 Peter Nowicki Might as well put some "Times Square" style neon atop the Castle adverting "Hearing Bagpipes Since 1385" What a crock

 Patrick Hadfield NO!

 John Stewart-Young Community Information Panels! What do they take us for.This is simply ridiculous and totally unsuited to this historic environment.Whilst arguably there is a need for bus shelters and an onus for these to be self funding the idea of the CIP's should be laughed out of court!

 Colin Brown Emphatically not. The Princes St ones are quite out of place; the huge Leigh Walk one is a shocking distraction. No more, please.

 Fiona Manson No

@theSpurtle not sure at all that this type of thing is compatible with the street's long term design principles? http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/news/article/2085/mapping_the_future_of_edinburghs_george_street 

Monkey Bones Monkey Bones ‏@iratesheep

Monkey Bones Retweeted Broughton Spurtle

Ah I see it's time to oppose JC Decaux repeated planning requests to put large adverts in george street *again*

Ysolda Teague Retweeted Broughton Spurtle

Poor George Street, you could be so lovely, but instead...

Andrew McLaughlin Free access to USB phone charging points and bus shelters that provide adequate cover alongside an ability to provide information to digitally literate locals and tourists about travel, services and the many local SMEs...they are not all evil. I'm sure there are plenty in SIMDs 1-4 that would welcome these, alongside growing numbers of digitally active pensioners, not to mention kids and parents.

 Alastair Wright The Council aren't trying to inform or provide service, this is low quality revenue generation with little disguise.
 Andrew McLaughlin Were you at the Community Council Meeting? Did you see the JCD business plan?
 Alastair Wright No, they generally don't advertise these things in case the public turn up.
 Andrew McLaughlin Ah, so you are jumping to conclusions. The meeting was well advertised, many folk were there. The importance of information was clear. Albeit on the back of advertising funding.
 Broughton Spurtle Spurtle was at that meeting. The 'importance' of 'information' was vague inasmuch as the Decaux rep had no idea who would edit it or according to what criteria; and clear inasmuch as Decaux rep said there would be 1 part 'information' to 12 parts advertising. Not sure how you can take any comfort from this.
 Andrew McLaughlin I am aware that Spurtle was at that meeting. Comfort taken from the fact that 1 in 12 is more information than is currently made available to people. Granted, the JCD rep was a little under prepared, but I am sure she hadn't expected to be rounded on in such unequivocal fashion by such a homogenous bunch of NIMBYs. It is very easy to sit in our SIMD 9 and 10 residences and forget that we are in positions of fortune. Sometimes I feel that the Community Council forgets that they don't sit there to only represent their own interests.

I'm not for a moment suggesting the JCD presentation was without need for improvement, but we should work better to accommodate opportunities for equality rather than worry about our ivory towers.
 Broughton Spurtle 1.) 1 in 12 iterations of unspecified information is not better than nothing. It’s worse than nothing as either a waste of space, or an abusable space.
2.) 1 in 12 iterations is not community information. It’s corporate space, with an insultingly trivial crumb tossed to the people of Edinburgh.
2.) That JCD rep wasn’t ‘rounded upon’. She was paid to be there, and more than held her own in repeating platitudes by a multinational company. She was then quite reasonably subjected to polite but rigorous questions from local people who spotted obvious flaws in the corporate case.
3.) There’s nothing wrong in making points about where you live and know most about. Resisting the clumsy intrusions of multinationals is not NIMBY-ism, it’s common sense directed from the bottom up.
4) Not sure exactly which ‘positions of fortune’ you’re talking about. Spurtle has no accurate information about the financial position of those attending that meeting.
5) The Community Council IS there to represent the interests of local people. That’s the whole point of community councils.
6) Wildly idealistic to think JC Decaux has any interest in accommodating ‘opportunities for equality’ on George St.
7) What ivory towers? That meeting was possibly attended by a privileged, lucky or well-remunerated element, but also by people with overdrafts, inadequate or non-existent pensions, and awful pay and conditions. Without precise information, you’re quite wrong to make assumptions.
 Eilidh Prentice I'm really sorry but I was at that meeting and was shocked and horrified by the unprofessional manner in which the speaker from JCD was treated. The chair had lost control of the meeting in the first few minutes, her talk was interrupted repeatedly and she wasn't provided with adequate space or time to show the proposals (the room was completely inadequate). In fact she was harangued, not only by the council members but by the floor in a manner that did not allow a full and frank discussion of the benefits or lack thereof of the screens. The governance was inadequate to make a fully reasoned, evidenced and transparent decision.  

While it is accepted that there may be people from many backgrounds in the room, the predominant voices were those that identified with streets in this neighbourhood that are well above base income. Further there was no representation from those in the rental sector and none from those under 25. Locals schools who could add value to this process do not appear to be consulted.

Any form of information flow in the digital age is of benefit. And the community council, instead of reverting backwards, could have used the time more productively to discuss the community information to be shared that would be of most benefit.

Ive never in my professional life witnessed a meeting that I have been so horrified by.
 Alastair Wright What a load of ...! Any form of information (ie. adverts) is of benefit!? Says the advertiser presumably. I'd be interested in hearing Eilidh & Andrews, as yet, undeclared interests.
 Broughton Spurtle You're very easily shocked and horrified! A few comments mid-flow, mostly curbed by the Chair. Absolutely bog-standard community meeting, and infinitely preferable to some North Korean, Steve Jobs-style, top-down love-in. Surely, it's quite right that multinational companies' representatives should not expect to be heard without interruption? She wasn't 'harrangued'. It's just that very few people who spoke agreed with her.
 Broughton Spurtle What evidence do you have for no people from rental sector or under 25? Don't understand your point about local schools – how would they benefit from 1 in 12 advertising cycles on George Street? Disagree with you about 'any form of information flow': origin, direction, quantity, framing etc. of information flow are absolutely crucial. More information is not necessarily better. What length and kind of professional-life experience are you invoking here? Is it relevant to community politics?
 Alastair Wright Personally, having worked in Marketing for 12+ years, I can confirm that adverts serve no public service interest. 1 info to 12 ads = crumbs for mugs, professionaly speaking.
 Eilidh Prentice Broughton Spurtle Qualified lawyer and associate director of the NHS, in corporate governance as well as other areas. I've no interest in JCD. But all that shouldn't matter. The point being made is that members had determined on their view prior to themeeting, without listening, and seemingly without considering all aspects of the community they are meant to serve. 

I would recommend some background research to digital too: http://youtu.be/5uBvapF9nxo
 Andrew McLaughlin I have absolutely no interests in JCD to declare. I do however have the children and young people of Edinburgh at the heart of my concerns. At a time when schools across Edinburgh are aiming to tackle the shocking statistic of 1 in 5 children living inpoverty, I will stand strongly for any measure which might alleviate the pressure on those young people. Children in the UK are often treated as if under house arrest. Too few services and those that exist often have hidden costs. These shelters are far from ideal, but they do offer a well-lit, dry place where young people might charge their phone should they need to.

I am not attacking any persons on the community council, I am however challenging the council to think more widely about the application of new technologies or, indeed, facilities. It was clear that while some views were represented fully, many from our community were once again left with no voice.
 Alastair Wright Great, so we're going to have gangs of kids hanging around bus shelters to use the free USB power sockets while being indoctrinated by multinational advertising firms ads. What a "far from ideal" vision you both have for our city center.
 Andrew McLaughlin And there speaks a man who clearly has little interaction with Edinburgh's young people.
 Alastair Wright Well if you think exposing kids to even more advertising is providing them with a service or going to help their poverty situation then I think you're in the wrong profession. On Eilidh's point about "members had determined on their view prior to the meeting" may I suggest they had experienced the Princess St. bus stops so already had a very good idea of what crumbs they were being offered and were keen to avoid a repeat in George St.?
 Andrew McLaughlin Thanks for your feedback Alastair, I'll be sure to give it the thought it deserves. I do regret that you feel the need to take on the person rather than the argument.

I reiterate that I do not think these CIBs/Bus shelters are ideal, but they are the 
start of what could be a negotiation process. I look forward to interviewing bus passengers waiting in the Autumnal weather for their bus to see if they agree that advertising is a bigger problem than a lack of dry, well-lit bus stops. If we allow buses in our historic city centre, we kinda need to provide shelters. Why not save the tax payers the cost by allowing the shelters to paid for by advertisers. They can pick up the tab for those "gangs" of young human beings charging their phones too.
 Alastair Wright First time you've found any +ves, congrats! -ves still in the vast majority IMO.

Email from David Young (30.10.16): I like Alastair Wright’s observation that if passengers can’t see approaching buses, bus drivers can’t see them. Which of course ought to be obvious to anyone, although it doesn’t seem to have occurred to the CEC officials who are paid to think about these things. Or if it has, then basic ergonomics clearly come low on their list of priorities – as I suppose is evident from the reply I got from the acting manager of ‘accessibility’ (see Letters, 28.10.16).

I’ve had a look at JCD’s submissions on the planning portal. Two things strike me: the naked appeal to our councillors’ notorious obsession with turning Edinburgh into a ‘continental’-style city – hence the constant name-checking of European capitals (most with very different urban environments from ours) to which JCD have already flogged their street furniture. 

Then there are the woefully inadequate computer-generated images of how George Street will look when those shelters and ‘community information panels’ have actually been planted on the pavements. These pictures seem to have been carefully composed to give no meaningful impression at all of the impact on the streetscape of this extra clutter: in each one the crucial objects are so remote and tiny that JCD might as well have used photographs taken from Mars.

And of course no still picture can show the constant flashing of the animated screens – a blingy distraction which now blights most views from the north side of Princes Street. Sorry – did I say ‘blights’? Apologies for that elitist lapse. I forgot: ‘Any form of information flow in the digital age is of benefit’.

Rhona Stewart Cameron Nonononononono! This isn't New York. There's a reason we have World Heritage status. By any chance is this Council trying to get rid of the WHS status so that they can make even more mess.

@theSpurtle it's a mess of a street somehow. It should be so elegant

Email from Isobel Morton: No to the advertising boards and the bus shelters are useless too: first spit of rain and the seats are wet and they shelter no one from Edinburgh weather!!

Harry Beale Collins We do not need any further bombardment on the senses.

 Harry Beale Collins We do not need any further bombardment on the senses.

SEE ALSO Letters (28.10.16).

 Louise Hunter We don't need this crap.

 Gary McLean-Quin Much of Edinburgh would benefit from being decluttered... not further encluttered... the bus stops would be more than distracting enough but the info panels - no, no, no - truly surplus to requirements and pointless, thanks JCD.

10 George Street
55° 57' 12.7728" N, 3° 11' 41.8992" W