Reading Borough Council (RBC) have refused permission for two giant illuminated LED advertisement hoardings on Whitley Street and the Basingstoke and Surrey Road junctions. These would have replaced the existing hoardings, both of which until recently were non-illuminated.

The (now) illuminated Whitley Street advertisement

Global Media, who own and manage the Whitley Street advertisement, illuminated the formerly paper-only hoarding sometime around November 2019. This unauthorised conversion is subject to a planning enforcement complaint, but it allowed Global to respond to objections that the new illumination would cause disturbance by saying:

[The] level of lighting will not exceed that presently in place. As such there will be no intensification of harm.

The council disagreed, saying:

…the proposed LED advertisement hoarding would result in an unacceptable detrimental impact on neighbouring residential amenity through an introduction of increased light and flickering light from the changing of images.

Global didn’t consider their proposed giant LED screen on Whitley Street any more distracting to local traffic than the illuminated advertisement they had erected a few weeks previously, and the council’s transport officers agreed that there was no increased public safety concern as long as the proposed LED hoarding maintained guidelines in the Professional Lighting Guide.

In their refusal, the council said the proposed Whitley Street LED advertisement would detrimentally impact the historic and architectural interest of the former Wellington Arms, adding:

…the proposed siting and intensity of the hoarding would create a sense of overbearingness which would detract from the character and enjoyment of the adjoining green space, street scene and wider area.

The council has been asked if Global will be required to put the hoarding back to its non-illuminated state, and Global have been asked if they intend to pursue their LED screen plan, but neither have responded.

Environmental considerations not considered

The council refused to consider the environment impact of the new illuminated adverts, saying

…the council is not legally permitted to consider this point in assessing the application. However, the Council has a great deal of sympathy for environmental concerns.

RBC issued a climate emergency statement in February 2019 which said:

…this Council commits to playing as full a role as possible – leading by example as well as by exhortation – in achieving a carbon neutral Reading by 2030.

The council also issued a climate change strategy in September 2013, which included a target of reducing electricity consumption within the commercial and public sectors. We have asked Katesgrove councillors Rose Williams, Sophia James and Liam Challenger what purpose RBC’s environmental statements have if the council is unable or unwilling to use them to reduce electricity usage, but they have declined to respond.

The Surrey and Basingstoke Road junction advertisement

RBC refused permission for the proposed LED advertisement at the Surrey and Basingstoke Road junctions, saying that it would be overbearing and detract from the character of the street scene.

The council thought that the LED conversion could cause a danger to public safety near the busy Basingstoke and Elgar Road junctions, the nearby bus stop and local shops:

The siting and sequential images displayed on the proposed LED media display screen would distract drivers in a location where there is conflicting vehicle movement and high flows of traffic. This could result in sudden and unpredictable vehicle movements, increasing the risk of collisions with other vehicles or pedestrians.

  1. Planning applications 191648 and 191707
  2. Don’t look at this thing! Look at that thing, over there!