Advertising is likely to be allowed in parks with the possibility of billboards appearing in the future.
‘Low impact’ advertising in Bristol’s parks is likely to go ahead with the council refusing to rule out allowing billboards in the future, despite strong support for a petition and councillors agreeing on the negative impact.
A petition against the council’s controversial proposal to allow advertising in parks got nearly 4,000 signatures, forcing a full council debate on 20 March.
While Deputy Mayor Asher Craig said that billboards aren’t yet part of the plans, they weren’t ruling them out completely. “We cannot preclude this from ever happening as we may need to explore this again in the future if more income is required for council services,” she said.
Craig said that austerity had put the council “between a rock and a hard place” as the council tries to close the £108m budget gap.
Allowing advertising in parks would bring in an estimated £50,000 a year, but parks are set to lose £2.86 million a year from 2019.
The council says that services will need to be “run in a very different way, working in partnership with communities to look at income generation opportunities, while also making savings and making services as efficient as possible”.
“It’s a positive that the council are almost overwhelmingly sympathetic to the principle but also disappointing and frustrating that the council doesn’t seem to be willing or able to act on those feelings”
“We’re not going to create new structures or huge billboards for the sole purpose of advertising at this point in time,” said Craig. “But we do want to look into more detail with some market experts to determine what the possibilities and locations – not only in parks but across the city.”
After the debate, Nicola Round, co-founder of anti-advertisement campaign group, Adblock, said: “It’s a positive that the council are almost overwhelmingly sympathetic to the principle, but also disappointing and frustrating that the council doesn’t seem to be willing or able to act on those feelings.”
Round argued that the £50,000 that advertising in parks is expected to generate is not worth the wide ranging negative impact it would have.
She also feared that once advertisements are installed, they don’t tend to be removed. “once the advertising is here, it’s here to stay. It won’t be got rid of,” she said.
“What we’ve seen with other advertising sites is that once they’re there, it’s much easier for ‘the creep’ to happen. By allowing advertising of any kind into an area it then makes it much easier for advertisers to make little changes to it – but what we would say are significant changes,” she added.
All councillors involved in the debate agreed that advertising in parks isn’t good for people, but most agreed that advertising in some form should be permitted. Craig promised that advertisements would be low impact, in the form of lamppost banners, posters on bins, leaflets, newsletters, parking tickets, websites and toilets, and that local communities would be consulted.
Councillor Harriet Bradley said she “reluctantly prefered” to allow advertising if it would ensure that parks stayed opened and properly maintained.
“We may have to make some compromises until the madness of austerity policy is over and public services are properly funded again,” she said.
Councillor Jos Clarke agreed that, while she’s “not wildly excited” about the prospect of advertisements in parks, advertising “may be a necessary evil”.
“This does not have to be a permanent solution of fixture and any advertising can be easily removed and may not necessarily have to be there any longer than necessary,” she said.
Councillor Stephen Clarke also raised the issue that advertising might not be distributed equally across the city’s parks. “I expect we may be getting adverts in Dame Emily Park in Ashton or Eastville Park, but I don’t suppose you’ll be seeing them on the Downs any time soon,” he said.