Barcelona cracks down on ‘visual pollution’ of billboards

Barcelona's left-wing mayor is throwing out one in five street advertisements to free the city of "visual pollution".

Barcelona cracks down on 'visual pollution' of billboards
Photo of a billboard in Barcelona. Photo: mingusmutter/Flickr Creative Commons.

Barcelona mayor Ada Colau's plan will reduce the number of spaces for commercial advertisements in the streets in order to do away with “the pollution of publicity”, according to local Catalan newspaper Ara.

The plan will cut down on advertisements along public roads by 20 percent and decrease the number of spaces from 2,194 to 1,884 available spots. According to news agency Efe, many of those removed will be illuminated billboards, often associated with bus stops and metro stations.

So as not to lose any of the city's annual revenues on the endeavour, Colau's government said it will increase the price for adverts from €10.5 million a year to at least €12 million.

“Barcelona is a city that is very contaminated with advertising – double what is seen in other Spanish and European cities,” deputy mayor Gerardo Pisarello told Efe last week, adding that the goal is to “be able to enjoy the public scenery in a more pleasant way, with less suffocation and without it affecting municipal earnings.”

The plan must undergo a period of public review for 30 days before being adopted, according to Ara.
Reducing the amount of advertisements in the city is part of an overall mission from Colau's government to de-commercialize the city, from declaring war on Airbnb with tighter restrictions, to suspending tourist accommodation licenses.

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Why has the expansion of Barcelona airport prompted mass protests?

Around 10,000 people demonstrated against the expansion of the El Prat airport in Barcelona on Sunday.

Why has the expansion of Barcelona airport prompted mass protests?
People march during a demonstration against the expansion of the Barcelona-El Prat airport. Photo: Pau BARRENA / AFP

Several ecological and agricultural organisations, have demanded that the expansion be stopped due to the fact nearby wetlands and farms would have to be destroyed.

The demonstration took place on Calle Tarragona in the Catalan capital between Plaça d’Espanya and Plaça dels Països Catalans.

The protests still took place, even though last week, Spain suspended the €1.7 billion airport expansion project, citing differences with the Catalan government, after president Pere Aragonès said he wanted to avoid destroying La Ricarda lagoon, a natural reserve next to the airport. 

Environmentalists decided not to call off the march, in case plans for the airport expansion still went ahead.

READ ALSO: Six things you need to know about Barcelona airport’s €1.7 billion planned expansion

Political representatives from ERC, En Comú Podem and the CUP also attended, as well as the leader of Más País, Íñigo Errejón; the Deputy Mayor for Ecology of the Barcelona City Council, Janet Sanz, and the Mayor of El Prat de Llobregat, Lluís Mijoler.

People from neighbourhoods across the city marched towards Calle Tarragona and could be seen holding placards that read Nature yes, airport no and shouting slogans such as “More courgettes and fewer planes” and “Fighting for the climate, health, and life”. 

One of the largest groups of people were those from El Prat de Llobregat, the municipality which is home to the airport, who were led by tractors. 

People march during a demonstration against the expansion of Barcelona-El Prat airport. Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP

In addition to protesting against the expansion of the El Prat airport, people were also demonstrating against the Winter Olympic Games in the Pyrenees and extensions to airports in Mallorca and Madrid. 

A representative of Zeroport, Sara Mingorría said “We are here to defend not only La Ricarda, but the entire Delta”. 

The philosopher Marina Garcés also argued that the expansion of the airport would mean “more borders, more mass tourism, more control and more precarious jobs.” 

The leader of the commons in the Catalan parliament, Jéssica Albiach, who also attended the protest, asked the PSOE for “coherence”: “You cannot be passing a law against climate change and, at the same time, defend the interests of Aena [the airport operations company]”, she said. 

She also urged the leader of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, to “definitely say no. 

If the airport expansion in Barcelona goes ahead, environmentalists say that CO2 emissions would rise by a minimum of 33 percent. These levels would surpass the limits set by the Catalan government’s climate targets.