Objections remain to new ‘unacceptably prominent’ digital display in Belfast

Plans for a larger screen to replace existing one in Shaftesbury Square are being opposed by Stormont officials

The existing digital display screen in Belfast's Shaftesbury Square.
The existing digital display screen in Belfast's Shaftesbury Square.

Councillors in Belfast are being urged to object to a proposal for a new larger digital advertising display to replace an existing one at a busy location.

Belfast City Council officers are recommending refusal on an application to install the display at Shaftesbury Square, on the grounds of size.

The application by Michael Fairfowl, of Larne, seeks advertisement consent for a digital screen located at 12-13 Shaftesbury Square, where there is currently a smaller display operating.

The refusal recommendation follows objections from the Department for Communities’ Historical Environment Division and the Department for Infrastructure’s (DfI) Roads authority on grounds of “adverse impact on the setting of the adjacent listed building” and road safety.

The application was initially to replace the existing 6.8 metres by 3.8m screen with one measuring 20m by 5m.

That was amended to a 16m by 4m screen to address concerns, but Stormont officials maintained their objections

A council report said the proposed new screen would be “unacceptably prominent” and detract from the setting of the adjacent listed building.

“Furthermore, the proposal would harm public safety, by prejudicing road and pedestrian safety,” the report states.

“Having regard to the development plan and other material considerations, the proposal is unacceptable.”

The council received three letters of support for the application, two from Linen Quarter BID and one from the Belfast Chamber.

Linen Quarter BID, a not-for-profit place making organisation aimed at “delivering specific improvements” to the area, said the screen would “provide interesting content” and “enhance the city centre”.

A digital sign was first approved at the site in 1994 and again in 1998, before it was removed in 2009. Permission for the existing screen was granted in 2015.

The Historical Environment Division said: “Due to the increased size and nature of the proposed moving/kinetic electronic signage screen, we consider the installation would have a detrimental impact on the setting of the listed building, due to its scale, form, height, alignment and would form a competing focus to the listed building.”

The DfI Roads division said: “The proposed digital display is significantly larger than the current display and would therefore intensify the risk of driver distraction.”