Appeal dismissed over rejected digital advertising screen plans in Sunderland which sparked safety fears

Plans for a digital advertising screen have been rejected by a Government-appointed planning inspector over public safety fears.

Monday, 20th December 2021, 5:21 pm

Sunderland City Council’s planning department refused proposals to ‘modernise’ a standard poster hoarding at 122 Hylton Road, near Millfield Metro Station.

This included installing an illuminated sign which would display multiple static advertisements on rotation around every ten seconds.

The applicant was listed as The Wildstone Group Ltd with the plans forming part of a drive to upgrade advertising infrastructure to “meet modern requirements.”

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The plans were set out for hoarding in Hylton Road.

However, council planners refused the plans after raising concerns about impacts on neighbours and the sign causing a “distraction” to drivers and pedestrians “to the detriment of highway safety.”

The applicant later lodged an appeal against the city council’s decision, with the matter sent to the Planning Inspectorate and inspector Caroline Mulloy appointed by the Secretary of State to rule on the plans.

After considering all evidence, the planning inspector upheld the council’s decision to refuse the digital billboard and dismissed the appeal in November.

The main issues included impacts on the amenity of the area and public safety, given the proposed billboard’s proximity to homes and a traffic light crossing.

Due to the proposal’s “scale, illumination and changing display,” the planning inspector said the sign would “introduce an incongruous feature in a visually prominent location to the detriment of the amenity of the area.”

The planning inspector’s report reads: “The appellant has indicated that they are prepared to reduce the evening luminosity of the proposal and to also not illuminate the display between 0000hr to 0500hrs and has suggested conditions to this effect

“However, this would not overcome my concerns regarding the visual prominence of the proposal and the changing display in the evening and at night outside of these hours.”

The planning inspector also concluded that the proposal would “harm highway safety” and conflict with policies which “seek to ensure adverts do not impact on public safety and that development does not cause road safety issues.”

The report goes on to say: “I noted on my site visit that the offside traffic light would be seen against the backdrop of the proposed display at certain points on the approach to the crossing.

“Whilst the change of image would be instantaneous, the frequent change combined with the illumination of the proposal would cause a distraction to drivers approaching the lights and pedestrians crossing the road.

“It would, therefore, prejudice both vehicular and pedestrian safety particularly in the evening, at night and early mornings in the winter.”

The full appeal decision report can be found on the Planning Inspectorate’s website by searching reference: APP/J4525/Z/21/3284232

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