GEORGE STREET WILL NOT GO DIGITAL

Nine applications to populate George Street with double-sided LCD advertising screens have been refused by City of Edinburgh Council. 

As described here in October, JCDecaux wanted to use bus stops and freestanding monoliths – laughably described as ‘community information panels’ – at various locations along a thoroughfare which needs no such beautification. 

In a crushing report to the Development Management Subcommittee, CEC officials concluded: 

  • The introduction of the proposed digital advertisement into this visually sensitive location in addition to the cumulative impact of all nine digital advertisements would damage the unique and special historical character of George Street.
  • The proposal would be detrimental to the character and appearance of the New Town Conservation Area and World Heritage Site.
  • The proposal would detract from views running west and east, and from the setting of and views to a number of listed buildings and structures.
  • The proposal is contrary to the Council's Guidance on Advertisements, Sponsorship and City Dressing, the Guidance on Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas, the Edinburgh Design Guidance and the Street Design Guidance.
  • The proposal does not support the principles set out within the New Town Conservation Area Character Appraisal, The Edinburgh World Heritage Site Management Plan or the emerging vision and design principles for George Street as set out in the Council's ‘George Street - A Special Place report.
  • The proposal would have an unacceptable impact on the amenity of the location, contrary to Regulation 4 (1) of the Town & Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) (Scotland) Regulations 1984 (as amended).

With regard to the freestanding CIPs, the Roads Authority further found that they are:

… contrary to the Council's Road Safety Plan on the removal of street clutter, safety and promotion of active travel. The Road Safety Plan seeks to ensure footway clutter is minimised and aligned within design and maintenance schemes. The Council's 2030 Transport Vision and Active Travel Action Plan are also relevant. On this basis, Transport objects to the proposal on public safety grounds.

The proposal will have a detrimental impact on public safety as it will result in street clutter to a heavily used footway. The proposal is contrary to Regulation 4 (1) of the Town & Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) (Scotland) Regulations 1984 (as amended).

With regard to JCDecauxs justification that similar screens feature globally, the report stated that George Street ‘is unique and cannot simply be compared to other cities. … The existence of digital advert advertising of the type proposed elsewhere in the world has no bearing on the determination of this application.

Equally irrelevant was JCDecauxs claim that the CIPs could be used to display community information such as tourist information, local business directories, and local events:

However, the Planning Authority has no power to control the content of the advertisements or information on the panels and therefore this is not a material consideration in the determination of this application.

Pros and cons and next steps

Among those who expressed support were Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, Craft Scotland, The Dome, Laing, Hendersons, and various members of the public (including not entirely disinterested marketing professionals). Among those who objected to the proposal were the New Town & Broughton Community Council, and the Cockburn Association.

Coming so soon after CEC’s rejection of vinyl advertisements on the St Andrew Square tram stop, this is another resounding victory for those who want to see George Street sensitively improved rather than thrown to the commercial wolves.

The Council is now moving to procure detailed and costed designs for the George Street improvement scheme. A report is expected to be completed before the local authority elections in May. 

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

------------------

@theSpurtle It would be nice if JC Decaux would stop endlessly presenting planning applications for these pieces of clutter now...

Agreed. Commercial appetites first whetted by temporary permission granted in 2009 during tramworks. Steady drip…drip of saliva ever since.

Neale Gilhooley Just watch out for a creeping back door re-entry of some kind, too much cash for council to let it drop.

Dominic Berry Wow! The Council does the right thing! However, "The Council is now moving to procure detailed and costed designs for the George Street improvement scheme." George Street should be left as it is. Every Council intervention in the street has been bad. The latest one is the stencilling of painted "No ifs, no butts -- don't drop litter" signs onto the pavement all the way along the street. This must have been done in the last week or two. Litter can always be picked up, but these unsightly graffiti will remain until the rain eventually washes them away.

Broughton Spurtle Not sure what's more baffling: CEC thinking JCD wouldn't try and monetise the Edinburgh World Heritage Site, or JCD thinking people wouldn't object.

Isobel Leckie Let's go for full, permanent pedestrianising of George St. Heart of World Heritage site.

George Street
55° 57' 10.5264" N, 3° 12' 1.6956" W