Sydney's Glebe Island silo billboard gets three-year extension despite complaints
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It's touted as the biggest billboard in the southern hemisphere and considered an eyesore by some Sydneysiders, but it's set to stay for another three years.
The Glebe Silo Billboard in Sydney's inner west is seen by hundreds of thousands of commuters who cross the Anzac Bridge each day.
There's no denying it has a dominating visual impact — it can be seen from several of the harbour foreshore parks around Glebe and Pyrmont.
It was introduced in 1992 to promote the Sydney Olympics bid and was only intended to be temporary, but has been granted rolling extensions over the years.
It has now been granted another extension by the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) who dismissed concerns about the visual impacts of the advertising.
The sign, which a City of Sydney planner called a "permanent blight" on the Sydney skyline, is more than 1,000 square metres and sits on top of 15 heritage-listed silos which store cement and sugar.
It's owned by the Port Authority, which leases it to advertising company oOh!media for an undisclosed amount, but advertising sources say the lease is approximately $250,000 per 28 days.
In July, Eye Drive Sydney, a subsidiary of oOh!media, applied for a 10-year extension of the billboard, which the Department of Planning supported.
However, because more than 50 public submissions opposing the project were received, the decision had to be referred to the IPC.
A two-person panel ruled keeping the billboard in place would not hinder the broader precinct, so approved a three-year extension.
They found the sign was compatible with the size of the silos and did not draw people's attention away from key landmarks in the area, like the Harbour Bridge.
"… the visual impact is not unreasonable in the context of the surrounding city scape, the working port operations, the changing context of the area and the imposition of a time limit on the period of consent," the IPC said.
The panel also rejected concerns the billboard could distract drivers but imposed conditions that mean advertising cannot predominantly use the colours red or green or resemble traffic devices.
To reduce sleep disturbance impacts for residents, a tighter lighting curfew was imposed, so the billboard's cantilevered downlights are turned off at 11pm instead of 1am.
"[This] would typically be prior to the lights being turned off on the Anzac Bridge," the commission said.
Glebe Point resident Judy Cashmore has to shut her blinds in the evening to keep the bright lights of the sign out.
She said the amended curfew was an improvement but the fact the advertising remains was disappointing.
"I think it's such a wasted opportunity to do something better," she said.
"A number of residents suggested we use it as an art space that celebrates Aboriginal culture, it could be a Welcome to Country."
She felt it was dismissive of the commission to just tell residents to "put up with it" and felt the advertiser had supplied misleading visual impact assessments.
"There are hundreds, maybe a thousand apartments around here that would look directly out over it [the billboard] yet none of the submitted photos were taken above ground level."
Ms Cashmore said the sign was particularly "visually polluting" when she looked out her window to a massive gambling or alcohol ad.
"It's hardly an attractive sight for the hundreds of residents … is that as good as it gets in Sydney?"
The Member for Balmain, Jamie Parker, says the heritage silos should be free of commercialisation.
"It's a piece of public property — do we need to have a billboard on everything?" he asked.
"On top of that, we're trying to reduce the amount of unnecessary light in our cities as it has a big impact on a range of native species."
The City of Sydney, which takes in the residents of Glebe and Pyrmont, made a submission against the application and called for the billboard to be scrapped permanently.
It said the signage doesn't fit with the desired future character of the area, with new development zones planned around the silos as part of the Bays West strategy.
"The continued presence of the signage for third-party advertising, and the ongoing blight to which it contributes, is clearly incompatible with that vision and would compromise future residential amenity of the precinct," the council said.
But the IPC said a short-term extension was still justified.
"The commission acknowledges that this precinct will undergo significant change in the coming years, and considers a time-limited consent to be appropriate to ensure the signage does not adversely constrain future development."
The Inner West Council made no objections about the visual impacts of the billboard.
Since 2018 the council has received $125,000 a year from Eye Drive Sydney for heritage conservation and improvements in the local community.
We acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Australians and Traditional Custodians of the lands where we live, learn, and work.
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