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Camden Council to raise £2.5 million with new digital advertising screens

Critics say the new boards look 'tawdry' and will ruin the 'gateway to Hampstead'

25 May, 2017 — By Richard Osley

How the screen near Haverstock School will look if planning consent is granted

A COUNCIL bid to install new digital advertising screens on pavements has been criticised as a “tawdry” way to raise money after images revealed how they would look. Objectors said the “gateway to Hampstead” and a view down Haverstock Hill – once painted by Constable – would be ruined.

The cash-strapped Town Hall has commissioned leading advertising company Wildstone, which has planning applications for the 4ft illuminated screens at a collection of proposed sites across the borough, including a spot opposite Haverstock School in Chalk Farm. Letters of objections have now been published by Camden’s own planning department, which holds the final say on whether they can be erected.

Charles Medawar, who lives close to the Haverstock site, said: “Camden has just hiked the community charge by 5 per cent, citing the need to protect key services – now it proposes this degrading of the environment on the same grounds. I deplore the cuts imposed by central government but see this as a deeply unimaginative and tawdry response.”

The Eton Conservation Area Advisory Committee said the “gateway to Hampstead” was at risk of being harmed, adding: “Camden has already demonstrated how the setting of a street scene can be improved by de-cluttering the northern section of Camden High Street. “It is perverse that it now wishes to introduce clutter further north along the same route where none currently exists.” Another objector, Diane May, wrote that the screens were “insensitive” and “unnecessary”, adding: “The historic view from Steele’s Village over London has been immortalised in the painting, The View Of The City Of London From Sir Richard Steele’s Cottage, by John Constable, and must be protected from street signs and clutter.”

How the screen outside Waitrose in Finchley Road will look

Objections have also been received to plans to install the screens close to Holborn police station in Theobald’s Road, Euston Road and Finchley Road, close to Canfield Gardens.

In the application for planning consent, Wildstone said there had been a “rigorous” approach to selecting sites. It promised a “simple and elegant structure”.

Camden’s finance chief Councillor Theo Blackwell said:“To balance the books after another round of £80m of cuts from this government, we’d had to look at new ways supporting services. Digital screens raise £2.5m which otherwise would have been more cuts or hikes in Council Tax. When faced with this unpalatable choice 74 per cent of residents backed our moved to explore this, as long as there were safeguards. But money isn’t everything, we have to protect our neighbourhoods, so rather than having a downtown Tokyo-style free-for-all across conservation areas, as suggested by the Camden Tories each year in their Budget, we’ve looked at scores of sites and settled on much smaller number which comply with heritage and planning policies, and pedestrian safety.”

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