The view from inside a home near the billboard. Diana O'Dwyer
digital signage

LED billboard in Rathmines still impacting local residents in the area

A local resident told The Journal that she is still sleeping in the back bedroom in her home due to how bright the billboard is at night.

AN LED BILLBOARD in Rathmines which saw advertisers pull their ads from it following complaints over its brightness is still impacting local residents in the area.

The billboard on the Lower Rathmines Road had stopped hosting paid advertisements following the controversy surrounding the display sign, though images were still being displayed on it.

However, the billboard has since begun hosting paid advertisements again. 

The Journal reported last month that the 6m high and 6m wide digital display sign was so bright at night that one local resident had to move to another room in her house to sleep.

After the article was published, the owner of the billboard told The Journal that it would look at lowering the lighting at night and examine the transition between the ads on the billboard, which are supposed to have a ‘fade transition’.

However, local resident Diana O’Dwyer said that despite the brightness being turned down, the billboard was still displaying images for that length of time.

Speaking to The Journal, she said: “Up until Monday, there was no paid advertising on the billboard since all the bad publicity got the original advertisers to pull out, but the billboard was still on the whole time. It was just advertising itself and changing between three or four images, including the big eye, 24/7.”

She said that an advert for Sunshine 106.8fm began displaying on the billboard on Monday.

Having emailed the station to complain, they issued a response. Seen by The Journal, it says that the ad “is only scheduled to be displayed between 8am and 6pm”so that there can be no impact as a result of undue brightness. 

“We are aware that our advert running through evenings and overnight may not be appreciated by some, but we are satisfied that it being active during normal daytime hours is appropriate,” the response continued. 

O’Dwyer said the ad was displayed after 6pm on Monday, but is now not featuring on the billboard after that time. “It’s being turned off at six o’clock, which is kind of admitting that it is incredibly antisocial for it to be on at all after six o’clock, which it has been,” she said.

“It’s obviously still really annoying during the day, but at night, it’s worse.”

sunshine night An ad displayed on the LED billboard at night. Diana O'Dwyer Diana O'Dwyer

The Abbey Theatre was also one of the advertisers using the billboard. However, in a statement to The Journal, a spokesperson confirmed that they had requested that their ad be removed.

“We have been made aware of the issues and requested that the ad be taken down with immediate effect. We understand that the ad has now been removed,” the spokesperson said.

Dublin City Council’s planning enforcement department began an investigation into the controversial billboard last month. 

In a statement to The Journal, a spokesperson for DCC said: “The matter remains under investigation. The planning enforcement section of DCC are currently compiling a final report on this case which will be completed before the end of next week.”

The planning permission given for the sign by An Bord Pleanála says the display should have a “fade transition” between the advertisements every 10 seconds or more, and that any change to the nature of the display is subject to planning permission.

O’Dwyer said she thought that the fade transition would be a gradual fade into dots between each ad. 

“It doesn’t do that, it just flashes to black now in between each ad, which actually makes the flashing even worse because it goes black-colour and then black-colour, rather than four going from colour to colour,” she said. 

“I complained about that weeks ago to the council and they’ve just totally ignored me. I got an acknowledgment email, but they haven’t done anything.”

The planning permission also states that “the maximum luminance of the advertisement display between dusk and dawn shall not exceed 250 candelas per square metres”, and should be subject to review by the planning authority and amended and adjusted in accordance with their requirements.

Local Green Party councillor Carolyn Moore previously told The Journal that she was concerned about the billboard and was following it up with the council and planning authority.

She requested that the maximum luminance be urgently measured and reviewed with regard to the impact that it’s having on adjacent homes. She also asked the council to urgently review the transition between the ads.

Moore also said that the Development Plan appendix 17 Advertising and Signage Strategy lists Rathmines as ‘predominantly residential’, and outlines where this kind of signage is acceptable or not. It’s not acceptable in areas of sensitivity, conservation areas, protected structures, residential and amenity areas. Because of this, she questioned how such a digital display got permission, and is seeking more information on this.

“I think it’s completely the wrong direction to go in for advertising in the city generally, and particularly for what we consider to be essentially an urban village – Rathmines is a large urban centre, but is an urban village at the same time,” said Moore.

“From a visual clutter perspective and aesthetic perspective, I think it’s very wrong to move into this area of digital advertising.”

She said that LED advertising and billboards have “an element of visual obtrusiveness that digital backlit and paper advertising simply doesn’t”.

O’Dwyer began sleeping in the back bedroom of her home to avoid the bright light and is still doing so now, despite having put up blackout blinds and having shutters on her window. 

“We’ve had to stuff clothes and socks and stuff around the edge of the shutter to try and block out the flashing but it still doesn’t entirely do it. It’s the worst very late at night when it’s very dark. It’s still visible even with all of that, you know, it’s still distracting,” she said.

“We have a skylight in the roof upstairs that doesn’t have a blackout thing. So any time you’re upstairs, the whole top of the house is flashing and the whole front of the house downstairs is flashing as well. You can’t really get away from it.”

The company who owns the billboard could not be contacted for comment before time of publication.

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