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Wednesday 8 February 2023 Dublin: 8°C
Diana O'Dwyer The LED sign outside the house and the view inside, with light coming from the sign.
# digital signage
Dublin City Council carrying out investigations after complaints over LED billboard in Rathmines
The council has received multiple complaints about the sign.

DUBLIN CITY COUNCIL’s planning enforcement department is carrying out investigations into the controversial LED sign which was recently installed in Rathmines.

Residents living next to where the sign was installed told The Journal this week that the light from the billboard was hugely distracting to them – so much so that one resident had to move to the back of her house to sleep. 

Dublin City Council told The Journal today that it has received multiple complaints in respect of the billboard. It is not releasing the exact number as the matter is under current investigation.

In a statement, it said:  

Contact is being made with relevant parties in respect of this signage and the associated specific complaints relating to it.

The council’s planning enforcement section is now carrying out active investigations relating to complaints received “to ensure that compliance is achieved in respect of all conditions associated with its planning approval”, said the statement.

After The Journal reported yesterday about the billboard and its impact on residents, Sky Ireland pulled its ads from the sign. By the day’s end, residents reported all of the ads had been pulled, though there were images still being displayed on the board.

The complaints first emerged after several people on Twitter shared images and photos of the billboard after it was installed on the gable end of a building on Lower Rathmines Road, questioning how it got planning permission. It was placed where there had previously been a traditional poster billboard.

As the video below shows, the light was extremely bright inside people’s homes at night:

TheJournal.ie / YouTube

There are also ongoing concerns over the transition between images on the billboard – they are supposed to have a fade transition, as per the planning approval, but residents queried if this was the case given their experience.

A representative of the Dublin-based outdoor advertising company which installed the billboard told The Journal yesterday that the sign had received “full planning [permission]“. It received the permission from An Bord Pleanála.

He also claimed that the nighttime brightness of the sign in Rathmines was just 5% of its full brightness at night.

He pledged that the sign’s brightness would be reduced last night. Resident Diana O’Dwyer told The Journal today that while no one had visited the site, the brightness had been reduced yesterday evening.

“It’s still really bright, but I measured it with the lux meter [light meter] app: previously it was 5,500 lux and afterwards last night it was 300 lux,” she said. 

She said this was a combination of the brightness being turned down but also since the ads were removed, the images now on the billboard are less bright. Instead of having mostly white colours, the images feature the colours blue, red and black for example. She believes that it would be brighter if a white-based image was placed on it. 

The images say “I am illuminating”, “I am dynamic” and “I am eyecatching”.

O’Dwyer said that the billboard is still bright, and is “still totally unacceptable” due to its impact on residents. While the previous traditional billboard had floodlights, those were positioned facing towards the image. The lights on the billboard are all facing outwards. 

Although there are commercial properties on the Lower Rathmines Road, O’Dwyer pointed out it is not a solely commercial area, and that this LED sign is unusual: “We didn’t move into Times Square.”

“It’s a mixed area, it’s not a purely commercial area,” she added. “The only people benefiting are the advertisers and the landlord renting the wall. It makes the whole area look bad.”

Yesterday, Sinn Féin Senator Lynn Boylan called for the Government to restrict the hours of LED advertisement billboards to reduce energy demand during peak hours. 

She made the suggestion as digital signage in shop windows and neon letters, as well as analogue and other digital advertising, must be switched off between 10pm and 6am in Germany. Spain has also brought in a rule that digital signage displays and lighting must be turned off after 10pm also.

“I don’t think any of this stuff should be allowed,” said O’Dwyer. “Digital billboards like this are in your face and should be banned. Nobody wants it. It is an intrusive thing taking over public space.” 

Meanwhile, Deputy Paul Murphy told the Dáil today that digital billboards should be banned. “Why are we allowing [these LED billboards]?” he asked during a Dail debate on An Bord Pleanála.

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