'I'll bin billboards in Bristol' says green mayor candidate Daniella Radice
Green party mayoral candidate Daniella Radice has vowed to tackle the spread of billboards in Bristol if she is elected next month.
Envisaging a city where “we are not being told we should have a bigger car or a nicer coat and that will make us happier,” Ms Radice said she will drastically reduce street advertising, focusing in particular on large posters such as billboards.
Discussing the concept with This is Bristol, Ms Radice said: “It’s all about freeing the visual space in Bristol. We don’t realise how much we are affected by our day-to-day environment.
“I want this to be a place where who you are is more important than what you have. It’s quite a big idea and it’s one of the ways of expressing that.”
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The environmental specialist said she hoped a reduction in billboards would also encourage people to shop locally. “It’s great to be able to shop in places like Gloucester Road,” she said.
“Only big companies can afford to have billboards. If we don’t have that information [about big brand companies] we are more likely to go to these local shops,” she added.
Ms Radice said she would target large “visual billboards” as opposed to smaller adverts at, say, bus stops.
She heaped praised on the Stokes Croft junction with City Road, where an empty space has been filled with a “beautiful mural”.
“I walk past it and I think how nice it is,” she said.
A citizen's petition on billboards was launched in March this year as part of a campaign called “Bristol: the City that said no to Advertising.”
Calling for the removal of advertising in public spaces, the petition has so far attracted 742 online signatures.
Ruth Potts, an academic and a campaigner for the New Economics Foundation, supports the Green candidate’s pledge, pointing out that many world-class cities, including Toronto, Paris and Sao Paolo have successfully banned or limited billboards:
She said: “Making Bristol the first UK city to say no to advertising would set it at the heart of a growing movement of forward-thinking cities that are sweeping away visual pollution and reclaiming public spaces as places to dream, play and build a more vibrant world."
However, the Outdoor Media Centre (OMC), a trade and marketing body which represents the interests of the outdoor advertising industry, explained the number of large adverts such as billboards has in fact fallen over the past five years, from around 35,000 to less than 25,000.
“Nowadays companies are more interested in investing heavily in billboards that look good,” a spokesperson said. “In the case of Bristol they’d rather have one central advert than five in say, St Paul’s. It’s quality, not quantity. It’s more targeted.”
The spokesperson added: “We support outdoor advertising therefore we want to preserve it, but actually so do most of the UK public.
“Not all outdoor advertising is beautiful, there are some that need to be cleaned up, but over the years the outdoor adverts we see on the streets these days are a lot more attractive than previously.
“The companies that are selling it and maintaining it care a lot about what people think.”
He added: “We are respected and liked by the public and we subsidise a lot of public services – for example, adverts at bus stops help keep bus fares low.
“There is a decent amount of public utility involved in outdoor advertising, and for the most part people see it not as a necessary evil but as a positive thing”.
Asked how practical her plan is, mayoral candidate Ms Radice said: “I think it’s feasible because it’s about changing the planning laws” so big companies no longer own the billboard space.
Asked where the plan fits in with her list of priorities, Ms Radice said: “Transport would be my first priority. I imagine this plan would take a little time.”