There is a possibility of billboards appearing in Bristol parks in the future announced deputy mayor Asher Craig.
A recent petition that gained over 4,000 signatures forced the full council to debate the issue of advertising in parks.
While most Councillors admitted that they would rather parks remain ad-free they couldn’t rule it out as a possibility.
Campaign group, Adblock Bristol, started the petition at the end of January and weren’t satisfied by the results of the meeting.
Bristol’s parks and park services have been repeatedly on the cutting board in recent months as the council strives to slash the park budget down to zero for the 2018-2019 period.
Deputy Mayor, Asher Craig, announced that ‘low impact’ advertising is highly likely to go ahead and spoke about advertising appearing on bins, lamp posts and parking tickets in the future.
One of the fears of campaign groups and the public was about larger billboards starting to appear and while Craig said that they aren’t being considered at the moment she refused to rule them out entirely.
“When the report comes to the cabinet in May we won’t be supporting large billboard sites” said Craig. “We aren’t going to create new structures for the sole purpose of advertising at this point in time.
“But we cannot preclude this from ever happening as we may need to explore this again in the future if more income is needed for council services.”
Adblock Bristol are working to locate all the billboards in the city. The group believes that they have a detrimental effect on the public.
All Councillors agreed that they would rather advertisements didn’t have to appear in parks but most agreed that it is a necessary evil.
Labour Councillor, Harriet Bradley of Brislington West said “Bristolians love their parks and green space, they are one of the jewels in the crown of our beautiful city.
“However if it is a choice between failing to keep our parks up out even closing some of them I would reluctantly prefer the advertising option.”
Conservative Councillor, John Goulandris of Stoke Bishop agreed with the sentiment of the petition. “It’s hard to relax when surrounded by large ugly advertising boards” he said, “they jar with the green landscape and make it impossible to truly relax.
“There are ways of increasing revenue from parks but they need to be ways that compliment rather than conflict with the core ethos of a park.”
Green Councillor, Stephen Clarke of Southville said “the truth is that no one is this chamber wants advertising hoardings in our parks.” He brought up the concern that advertising could be unequally distributed. “I expect we may be getting adverts in Dame Emily park in Ashton or Eastville park but I don’t suppose we’ll be seeing them on The Downs anytime soon.
Lib Dem councillor, Jos Clark of Brislington West isn’t “wildly excited” by the idea but said “in light of the financial situation we find ourselves in and the sustainability of our parks I feel that some form of advertising may be a necessary evil.”
The organisers of the petition, Adblock Bristol, believe that there will never be a good enough reason to put advertisements in parks and worry that once in place they are unlikely to ever be removed.
Nicola Round is one of the founders of Adblock Bristol and is suspicious about the term ‘low impact advertising’. “It’s a good thing that we won’t see large billboards in parks but I don’t think that goes far enough” Round said. “One of the councillors said that there is the possibility of the advertising being removed in the future but it seems very unlikely, it’s not what happens elsewhere in our city.
“Once it’s there it generally become more intrusive, not less. It’s not enough to say that we would just have a little bit of advertising in parks, it really is better to have none at all.”
Advertising is expected to raise about £50,000 per year, which is equal to about 2.5% of the funding gap.
An impact report is expected to come before the cabinet sometime in May and will decide what the future of Bristol’s green spaces will look like.