Use local elections to get advertising on the political agenda!

With local elections coming up on 5th May 2022, we have the perfect opportunity to get advertisements on the  political agenda.

Find out if there is a local election happening near you here. You can then contact your local political parties to get the contact details of all the candidates for the election or search on The Democracy Club.

You can canvass local candidates 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. 

You can find out more about how to lobby councillors here.

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, and Bristol City Council have all implemented similar policies in recent years with Norwich, Liverpool and North Somerset councils also passing motions for similar bans.

Municipal bans have also been secured on advertising for ‘high carbon products’ in Amsterdam, Utrecht and The Hague.

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. 

For example Lambeth Council stated in their 2021 Local Plan that “in order to enhance the environment, proposals for the renewal of advertisement consents for existing large panel advertisements will generally be resisted” which includes new digital screens.

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 volunteer 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. 

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