You can contact your local councillors and representatives if you are concerned about corporate outdoor advertising in your local area. You can find their contact details on your council website.

Local advertising policies

You can ask your council to create an Advertising Policy to govern the content of advertising sites within its control (e.g bus stops and billboards on council land). This could include a ban on ads for high-carbon products, but also advertising for gambling, payday loans, alcohol, and ‘junk’ foods High in Fat, Sugar and Salt (HFSS) – see Taking Down Junk Food Ads by food charity Sustain and the Policy Guidance Note from the Bristol City Council policy for more information.

For example, Adblock Bristol sent a briefing which highlights concerns about corporate outdoor advertising in Bristol to councillors and handed this out before a Bristol City Council meeting in December 2017.  This continued lobbying work led to the inclusion of a ban on ads for junk food, alcohol, gambling, payday loans and adverts in parks in a new Advertising and Sponsorship Policy adopted by the Council in 2021.

Low Carbon Advertising Policies

The ‘Badvertising‘ campaign has a page to help you write to your local councillors to ask them to adopt a ‘Low Carbon Advertising Policy’. A ‘Toolkit for Local Policymakers‘ is also available, which provides details of what powers councils have relating to advertising, a model motion, and Frequently Asked Questions. If you or your councillors have further questions about how a ban on advertising for high-carbon goods and services might work, check out this background paper.

Many local authorities have declared a climate emergency, so adopting ‘Low Carbon Advertising Policies’ and other anti-advertising measures can form part of their efforts towards lowering emissions.

‘No New Billboards’ policy

Local councils can also pass a planning policy introducing a presumption against all new planning applications for outdoor advertising.  This can be neatly summarised as ‘No New Billboards’. A useful parallel here is the Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s presumption against planning applications for fracking introduced in 2019, even though national legislation at the time was in favour of fracking. You could lobby your council to introduce a No New Billboards policy in their ‘Local Plan’ or ‘Local Development Framework’ – each council has different versions and names for these.

For example, Adblock Bristol ran a campaign in Spring 2019 calling for a planning policy of No New Billboards to be included in the revision of Bristol City Council’s Local Plan. This involved a petition with a simple ask of ‘No New Billboards’ that gained over 1,700 signatures. The petition was submitted as part a formal response to Bristol Council’s consultation on the revision of the Local Plan. 

Further information on what powers are available to local authorities to take action against outdoor advertising and some more policy recommendations are in this short briefing by Adfree Cities prepared for the 2021 local elections.

Write to your local councillors

If you just want to write to councillors about adopting a Low Carbon Advertising Policy you can use the Badvertising link above.

If you want to write to them about introducing a more wide ranging advertising policy there is a model letter below. All you need to do is:

  1. Complete all the text in purple:
  • Check if your council has declared a climate emergency. If it hasn’t, insert something else positive it’s said or done about climate change.
  • Check if your council has restricted junk food ads. If they have amend the text to reflect this.

2. Email the letter to your mayor and/or local councillors. It is also good to copy in the councillor responsible for climate/environment issues, if they have one.

3. If you get a reply and want help discussing policy with your council or to arrange a meeting with us and other experts, email charlotte[~at~]adfreecities.org.uk

To: your Mayor/Councillors
Subject: Adopting an advertising policy

Dear [Mayor/Councillor name],

Re: [Council name] adopting a climate and harmful advertising policy

As a [Council name] resident concerned about the impact of outdoor advertising and climate change, I congratulate the Council for declaring a climate emergency in 201X.

In line with recent government decisions to restrict advertising for unhealthy foods, I am writing to propose the Council adopt a policy restricting advertising for products that can be harmful to mental or physical health and the environment, such as foods High in Fat, Sugar and Salt (HFSS), gambling, payday loans and alcohol, as well as products most responsible for climate breakdown.

Advertising plays a key role in the climate crisis by fuelling demand for high carbon products such as SUVs, airline flights and fossil fuels. And many of the companies most responsible for climate change are actively involved in ‘greenwashing’ – intentionally misleading the public about the harm their products cause to people’s health and the planet. HFSS foods also contribute to childhood obesity and other health problems, and have been linked to a risk of depression and anxiety in adolescents. Given this harm, a comparable example is tobacco advertising, which was finally prohibited in 2003 after decades of public health campaigning. 

Such a policy has precedence: Bristol City Council have recently implemented an Advertising and Sponsorship Policy that restricts harmful advertising. Amsterdam municipality has banned all advertising, sponsorship and marketing events by fossil fuel companies and airlines. The Greater London Authority and Transport for London have also implemented a ban on ‘junk’ food advertising.

[Council name] has the opportunity to show progressive national leadership by becoming the UK’s first local authority to adopt a similar ban on all adverts that are harmful to its residents.

The UK’s climate authority, the Climate Change Committee has highlighted this leadership role that local governments should play, if the UK is to achieve its Net Zero ambitions, in its recent report, Local Authorities and Sixth Carbon Budget (Dec 2020):

“Local authorities also play a wider enabling and communications role, engaging communities, public sector and business partners in area-wide conversations and about climate change and the route to Net Zero…. This wider leadership role can influence local people and businesses to take action themselves.”

I am in touch with policy and legal experts who are working on this issue at a national level. I am happy to facilitate a meeting or provide more information as to how such a policy could be implemented.

Many thanks for your time.

Yours sincerely,
[Name]
[Your Postcode] (it’s important to add your postcode so that the local representatives know you live in their ward/local area)