A series of appeals by JCDecaux against city council decisions to refuse applications for illuminated advertising screens in the centre of Exeter have been dismissed by planning inspectors.
The “multifunction hubs” proposed by the French company would have been sited opposite the Iceland supermarket in Sidwell Street, near the entrance to Next in Paris Street and beside the Oxfam shop in South Street.
Each hub would have been eight and a half feet tall, nearly four and a half feet wide and more than a foot deep, with an overhanging canopy.
Dominated by an illuminated advertising screen on one side that is more than seven feet tall, the company pitches its hubs as offering a “range of services” including wi-fi, device charging, public messaging capabilities and a defibrillator.
A secondary 32 inch touchscreen can also be used to show advertising.
It says the hubs “boast” half-inch thick anti-vandal toughened glass surfaces and are “intended” as free to use. However it adds that “some units will have a more restricted use policy” which limits access to services.
Each hub consumes an average of 28.1 kWh per day, the equivalent of 234 modern domestic lightbulbs being switched on all the time.
JCDecaux submitted applications for a total of six illuminated advertising screens in the city centre in October last year before withdrawing one near Bedford Square and another on the the corner of Bedford Place and High Street.
The city council refused all four remaining applications in February, saying the proposed units would be “incongruous and unduly prominent” and would be “detrimental to visual amenity and the character and the appearance of the local townscape”.
JCDecaux then appealed all four decisions, submitting two appeals against each.
One planning inspector dismissed the Sidwell Street appeals by confirming that the hub would be “large and overbearing” at street level and would materially harm the character, appearance and visual amenity of the area.
They acknowledged the inclusion of ostensibly community-oriented services in the proposed hub but said these are “likely to be a secondary function” to the advertising, while noting the existing provision of defibrillators and wi-fi in the city centre.
Another inspector dismissed both Paris Street and South Street appeals, saying the hubs would be “overly dominant and visually intrusive” as well as “particularly noticeable and harmful in the hours of darkness”, adding that their claimed benefits would be “very limited”.
They also concluded that a South Street hub would harm the setting of nearby listed buildings.
A decision on the High Street hub appeals is expected shortly.