Use Local Elections to get Advertising on the Political Agenda in London!

With local elections coming up, we have the perfect opportunity to get advertisements on the  political agenda in London. During his first term as mayor Sadiq Khan banned fast food ads on  the underground, and the borough of Southwark put a blanket ban on fast food ads as well. To  maximise this momentum we can canvass the mayoral and local London Assembly candidates to  promise now to build on these precedents and include policies in their programmes which reduce  the presence, and negative impact, of advertisements in our city.  

In London, the local elections are divided between the mayoral candidates and those running for  the London Assembly to represent the boroughs of London in the city council. For supporters of  Adblock Lambeth you will be looking to the Lambeth and Southwark representatives to make  changes. There are six in the running – their names and contacts are listed at the bottom of this  blog post. 

We can canvass these candidates together by sending emails to each of them suggesting policies  such as those listed below; using the template drafted by Adfree Cities.  

Why not also try tweeting candidates to ask what their position is on advertising, and showing  that you care about the negative presence of billboards and bus stop adverts in our communities. 

Let’s work together to get our councils working for us!  

Policy Recommendation 1:

Ask your council to create an Advertising Policy to govern the content of advertising sites within  its control (e.g bus stops).

Councils have commercial contracts (known as Advertising Concession Agreements) with outdoor  advertising companies such as Clear Channel UK or JCDecaux. It is possible for councils to limit the most harmful forms of advertising on these sites. We recommend councils exclude  advertising for the following products on these sites: 

The Greater London Authority, Transport for London, Bristol City Council and Amsterdam  municipality have all implemented similar policies in recent years. 

Policy Recommendation 2:

Adopt a planning policy of ‘No New Billboards’.

Planning authorities (councils) determine planning applications for new digital advertising screens.  A council could adopt a presumption against planning applications for all new advertising  screens. This would send a message to advertising companies wishing to build new screens that  the local authority is not supportive. 

The alternative approach is for residents to spot and respond to planning applications one at a  time. This ‘firefighting’ strategy, on an application-by-application basis, is not sustainable and  residents will struggle to keep up with the raft of applications being submitted. Advertising firms  can use their financial power and salaried staff to outpace residents who volunteer their time to  object to applications. 

Policy Recommendation 3:

Make advertising companies donate 50% of their ad space to local projects.

As stated above, local authorities will have commercial contracts with advertising firms regarding  advertising spaces on Council owned infrastructure, e.g. bus stops. Advertising companies make hundreds of thousands of pounds in revenue from these contracts which dominate public space  with commercial messages by multinational corporations. Local volunteers organisations,  residents and neighbourhood associations, charities, mutual aid groups should have access to these existing advertising spaces as part of the democratisation of public space. The cost of this  policy should be borne by the advertising companies, not by local authorities. This policy will  need implementing when commercial contracts come up for renewal and re-tendering. 

Policy Recommendation 4:

Create Areas of Special Control of Advertisements.

Councils can use special powers to create areas with stricter control over outdoor advertising.  Part 3 of The Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) (England) Regulations 2007 contains measures for local authorities to create ‘areas of special control’. Residents who love and appreciate their neighbourhood and wish to take extra measures to protect it from new digital advertising screens should be able to argue for an Area of Special Control. It should not only be  residents who live in more affluent or desirable areas who should be able to apply. We should all  be able to take pride in where we live. 

Lambeth and Southwark London Assembly Candidates:

Marina Ahmad – @LabourMarina – Labour and co-operative party –

April Ashley – Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition –

John Cronin – Reform Party candidate 

Florence Cyrot – @FlorenceCyrot – Liberal Democrat party 

Hannah Ginnett – @HGinnett – Conservative and Unionist party – 

Claire Sheppard – @ShinyShep – Green Party –

Copy and paste this message to your ward candidates below.   

To: your ward candidates 
Subject: policy to stop outdoor advertising billboards 

Dear candidates, [Or: Dear candidate’s firstname]  

I am writing to you to find out your views on corporate outdoor advertising ahead of the local elections on 6th May 2021. I am opposed  to corporate advertising billboards, especially large new digital screens, on the grounds that they are bad for our wellbeing and mental health,  degrade the character of our neighbourhoods and promote an  unsustainable model of consumerism.  

1. Will you support a policy of ‘No New Billboards’ in the borough of Lambeth? This  would mean the council rejects planning applications for new digital  advertising screens, especially large new screens.  

2. If elected, will you prohibit advertising on Council-controlled sites (e.g bus stops) for harmful products such as environmentally damaging products, junk food, gambling, payday loans and  alcohol? Local authorities have recently enacted similar policies. 

For more information on the background to these issues, please see this Briefing for Candidates:

Please copy into your reply.  

Yours sincerely,  

Your Name  
Your Postcode (it’s important to add your postcode so that the  candidates know you live in their ward)

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