FURIOUS residents are calling for the removal of a huge illuminated billboard outside their homes.

People living on Piper Lane and Bradford Road in Otley say they have been subjected to bright light shining into their homes 24 hours a day since the board was switched on last week.They have launched a petition calling for its removal - and they are being supported by Leeds North West MP Alex Sobel.

Approval for digital billboards do not go through the usual planning permission process. Residents are not consulted, and decisions are not referred to councillors, instead being made by the planning authority who can only use a very specific legal framework to make the decision.

Mr Sobel questioned the ‘out of date’ law and said: “The legal framework to install digital billboards, particularly when replacing the regular ones, was put in place before digital billboards were commonplace and was never designed to account for bright, digital boards. Included in my inbox are parents who are now struggling to get children to sleep at night. I would not want to live with that kind of intrusion, and I don’t want that for any of my constituents.

“In the long term we must investigate and try to change an out of date planning law that was never intended to deal with this kind of thing. In my view, the most likely route to success in the immediate term, is to persuade the applicants; Air Outdoor Media Limited, that it is in everyone’s best interest to make changes. I have written to them to ask that they meet me on site, potentially with some affected residents, to discuss the issues and ask that they are more sensitive to the local community. I hope that they will consider reducing the time the board is lit.”

“Meanwhile, new applications are in place to convert the billboards on Gay Lane,” Mr Sobel added.

“I will be objecting to the new billboard applications and encourage others to do so. However, until the legal framework for which these decisions are made is changed, I fear we may see a lot more intrusions of this kind across communities everywhere.”

Alan Smith is one of the residents objecting to the recently installed billboard.

He said: “I am afraid that one evening the decision to approve this billboard will end up with a driver distracted at a critical moment on a bend where drivers coming the other way often dangerously overtake cyclists. I am generally supportive of Leeds City Council, they do a great job, but I think this is dangerous and should be taken down. I also can’t believe the planning office approved it in a conservation area: welcome to the traditional old terraces of Otley and here’s a massive bright digital Argos advert.”

Another resident, Amy Verity said : “I live on Piper Lane, with my family, and was horrified to learn there were plans to install a huge, lit-up hoarding on the site and that we had no way of objecting.

“The street is in a conservation area, with lovely stone houses and a community garden was created there not long ago. It seems bizarre that the Council decided it was a suitable structure in that location. Such signs belong in urban, commercial areas, or on wide, non-residential streets. The poster hoarding there before wasn’t nice to look at, but at night it wasn’t noticeable. Its replacement is very big and bright and shines directly onto the houses opposite. This is 24-hours a day and the light intrudes into our home. It is wasteful of energy, is polluting and harmful to wildlife.

“It’s left the family feeling sad and stressed at its intrusion, and angry that residents weren’t consulted or given the opportunity to object.”

She stressed: “Local people are united in their opposition to it, and we are trying hard to have it removed. We have since learned that there may be plans to put such signs on the corner of Gay Lane and Leeds Road, we’ll oppose that too.”

Residents say they were given no notice of the planning application or the decision, in November last year, which meant they had no opportunity to have their say or appeal against the decision.

They say when the digital advertising billboard was switched on, on June 25, it was like a floodlight pointing at the houses over the road and the oncoming traffic for 24 hours. Residents were told there was a technical error due to a faulty light sensor. The brightness has now been toned down - but it is still a massive cause of concern.

A Leeds City Council spokesperson said: “As with all applications for advertisements, the planning system is only able to assess on two matters; visual amenity and highway safety. In this case, the planning service followed the correct process and concluded that the application should be approved with a number of conditions attached. These included fitting a light sensor that adjusts the brightness to ensure the light is dimmer during darker hours and prohibiting moving or flashing images on the screen.”