New guidance on impact of giant outdoor screens
12 May 2009
Jane Barraclough, 020 7070 6771 , firstname.lastname@example.org
Local authorities must have robust policies in place to manage the impact of large digital screens in public places, CABE and English Heritage warn today (12 May 2009). Care is required to avoid screens causing significant harm to the character, appearance, amenity and even safety of places.
Increasingly, proposals are being made by broadcasters and commercial companies for large screens in civic squares across the country. The Live Sites programme for the 2012 Olympic Games, for instance, being run by the BBC, will result in 30 or more permanent screens across the UK.
New draft guidance, Large digital screens in public spaces – Joint guidance from English Heritage and CABE, has been prepared, by the government’s advisors on the historic environment and the built environment, for local authorities who are considering planning applications.
The guidance draws on experience from the 21 Big Screens already installed by the BBC. Examples include Norwich, where the screen has been successfully mounted on the entrance to a new shopping centre; Hull, where the screen is placed obtrusively on tall posts across a main pedestrian street; and Manchester, where the screen has been uncomfortably mounted on a Grade II listed building.
Where screens are planned and sited appropriately, for instance integrated into new public spaces which accommodate crowds, they have the potential to contribute positively to spaces and could support regeneration and community activity. However, in the wrong place screens can have a significant impact on local amenity and quality of public space. In small towns the dominance of a digital screen in its major – or only – public space can disenfranchise sectors of the community. They can also block important local views, detract from historic buildings, and lead to the felling of mature trees. The guidance advises that noise pollution is a particular risk: sound travels for some distance, and the screens are not used only for major sports events. Some screens transmit throughout the day, which can spoil the quiet enjoyment of a space and disturb local residents.
CABE and English Heritage recommend that local authorities:
- permit the screens only as part of an overall strategy for regeneration;
- assess the potential impact of proposals on the historic environment;
- avoid buildings and places of architectural or historic interest, and competing with public art;
- discourage proposals for commercial advertising, and
- carefully assess the proposed broadcast content and its potential influence on audience size, public access and safety.
Richard Simmons, Chief executive of CABE, comments:
“This is a growing issue. Before any decision is made to permit a screen, local authorities need to ensure that local character will be preserved or enhanced, and that any harm is minimised. This means having robust policies to protect public spaces, and a plan to resolve competing applications from other broadcasters or commercial operators.”
Philip Davies, Planning and development director at English Heritage, comments:
“Local authorities are responsible for deciding whether or not digital screens should be permitted, and if so, where. In the right places, such as new purpose-designed public spaces, they can support wider objectives of regeneration and community engagement. But in the wrong locations, such as historic town and city centres and conservation areas, they can be intrusive eyesores and cause significant harm. Clear local policies are essential.”
The consultation draft has been sent out to all local authorities for comment with responses required by Monday 27 July 2009 to email@example.com.
CABE is also one of the organisations that have contributed to the ‘SCREAM’ project, Framework for the implementation of urban big screens in the public space, which reflects many of the issues raised in the guidance. The project stresses that a new type of urban space is emerging, different from anything we have known before, and that we are ill-equipped to deal with it.
Notes to editors
- Download the joint guidance
- The SCREAM project (funded by Urban Buzz), Framework for the implementation of urban big screens in the public space, can be downloaded using this link: http://www.vr.ucl.ac.uk/projects/scream/
- CABE is the government’s advisor on architecture, urban design and public space. As a public body, we encourage policymakers to create places that work for people. We help local planners apply national design policy and offer expert advice to developers and architects. We show public sector clients how to commission buildings that meet the needs of their users. And we seek to inspire the public to demand more from their buildings and spaces. Advising, influencing and inspiring, we work to create well-designed, welcoming places. www.cabe.org.uk
- English Heritage is the government’s statutory adviser on the historic environment. We work in partnership with the central government departments, local authorities, voluntary bodies and the private sector to conserve and enhance the historic environment, broaden public access to the heritage and increase people’s understanding of the past. We aim not only to ensure the preservation of our historic surroundings for the future, but also to encourage people to appreciate and enjoy this heritage today.