Protesters in Brixton took direct action against a big increase in pavement screen advertising in Lambeth with a demonstration outside KFC and on Windrush Square.
With nearly 50 new screens erected or due to be built in the borough, activist groups say the council’s planning sub-committee and planning department are ignoring objections to the screens that are health hazards and consume vast amounts of electricity.
Members of the campaign group Adblock Lambeth covered up a “BT hub” screen outside Brixton KFC.
Joined by the community activist choir Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir and members of Adfree Cities and Fossil Free London, they plastered the screen with and anti-corporate advertising messages and chalked slogans on the pavement.
Adblock Lambeth said that, since the summer, 22 new on-pavement advertising screens have been approved by Lambeth council, with 25 more waiting for planning permission. Some 35 of the screens are double-sided.
“Advertising screens affect our mental health, cause visual and light pollution and create a distraction for drivers and everybody else on the road,” said Camille Aboudaram of Adblock Lambeth.
“They also consume a disgraceful amount of electricity when we are in the middle of an energy crisis.
“There are fears of winter blackouts and we are using more National Grid energy unnecessarily just to sell us more things and distract road users further? Lambeth council cannot be serious.”
Each “bus stop” type advertising screen uses the equivalent of four average UK homes, so the energy consumed by 47 Lambeth screens alone would be equal to that used by 188 homes, Adblock Lambeth said.
Adding roadside distractions is also incompatible with the Mayor of London’s Vision Zero for London, a recent strategy to eradicate serious injuries and death from London roads and transport by 2041.
“Research clearly demonstrates how advertising screens impact road users’ attention,” said Charlotte Gage, Adfree Cities’ network director. “Advertising’s goal is exactly to get your attention. Those screens are designed to distract road users with bright LEDs, bold colours and changing images, resulting in micro-accidents every day.
“In big cities, where there already are so many distractions – people randomly crossing roads, scooters, cyclists and lots of road signage, advertising screens directly compete with the important road information that we need to concentrate on, and do this just to sell us more things that we don’t want or need. It’s irresponsible.”
Adfree Cities is currently asking the Westminster government to turn off ad screens at night to reduce unnecessary power use, following such a move by European countries.
Adblock Lambeth is part of the Adfree Cities network. You can join by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or finding them on social media – @adblocklambeth.