Publication - Publication

Planning Advice Note 80: control and management of fly-posting

Published: 28 Dec 2006

Planning Advice Note (PAN) 80 provides advice on how local authorities can effectively control and manage illegal poster advertising (flyposting) in urban and rural areas.

32 page PDF

2.2 MB

32 page PDF

2.2 MB

Planning Advice Note 80: control and management of fly-posting

32 page PDF

2.2 MB


1. Fly-posting, which constitutes illegal notices, advertisements and other printed material, can result in local authorities bearing considerable expense, both in controlling sites and addressing adverse amenity impacts. Better control and management will work to support vibrant and thriving city, town and village centres through the reduction of environmental crime and antisocial behaviour.

2. This Planning Advice Note ( PAN) has been prepared to fulfil the commitment in the Partnership Agreement on fly-posting. It draws on recent research as well as existing initiatives, policies and best practice, across Scotland, the UK and further afield to highlight how local authorities can effectively control and manage illegal poster advertising in both urban and rural areas, across the diverse range of communities in Scotland. This PAN should be read in conjunction with existing national policy and advice on town centre management. Of particular relevance are: PAN 59: Improving Town Centres, SPP 8: T own Centres and Retailing and A Policy Statement for Scotland: Designing Places.

3. The advice in this PAN will be of particular relevance to local authority interests, including planning policy, development management, enforcement, environmental health, street cleansing, environmental wardens and town centre managers. This advice is also intended as a guide for developers, utility companies, public transport operators, public sector agencies, the police, property owners, community interests and organisations involved in street advertising.

4. Effective coordination of the knowledge, enthusiasm, commitment and resources of these interests can contribute significantly to the effective control and management of poster advertising, enhancing Scotland's town centre environments and the quality of life of those who live in, use and enjoy these places. Cover images

Fly-poster advertising in Scotland

5. Fly-posting is prevalent in our towns, cities and rural areas. It is an illegal form of outdoor advertising providing a cheap and instant message. 'Saturation' coverage in an area can give a product an immediate presence. This method of advertising is a well- established marketing device in the entertainment industry, often utilised by night clubs, bars and restaurants (the so-called 'evening economy'), record companies, events organisers and other advertisers. The immediacy of fly-posting can be especially attractive for products with a limited 'shelf-life', such as record releases. The sometimes explicit nature of fly-posting is regarded by some as a positive feature of this form of advertising. It is often associated with graffiti as a vehicle for youth culture artwork and communication. As a consequence some major companies view fly-posting as a way of increasing their engagement with youth audiences to promote events and products.

6. The outdoor advertising medium is the fastest growing type of advertising in the UK, accounting for 9% of display advertising revenue in 2004 1 . Legitimate advertising opportunities range from high-impact banners, large-format roadside billboards through to advertising opportunities at stations, in trains, bus shelters, taxis, buses, leisure centres, on plasma screens, postcards, and in shopping malls and supermarkets. Consumers can be reached as soon as they step out of their home right to the very point of purchase. It is thought that the fly-posting phenomenon has brought street advertising into disrepute and has devalued the legitimate paid-for outdoor advertising industry 2 .

7. Supporters of fly-posting focus on it being an affordable form of publicity which can offer community, enterprise and customer benefits through helping to promote the evening economy, small arts events and alternative venues. Evidence suggests that this type of advertising only accounts for a small percentage of the problem, occurring in smaller cities and towns, such as Perth and Stirling. In larger cities, such as Edinburgh and Glasgow, the incidences of fly-posting are significantly greater, with national music events and world famous musicians and artists being advertised on the street. Companies that advertise these events are well organised and often use fly-posting as part of a larger campaign.

8. However, authorised poster advertising on legitimate poster sites can contribute to the dynamic city 'buzz' during a city festival and other major national and international events that now form a common part of town and city place and regeneration strategies across Europe. On a more local scale, posters are used on occasion to publicise local government elections and referendums. Community events, such as jumble sales, bonfire night, school fĂȘtes and amateur dramatic events are also advertised locally using posters.

9. To many people fly-posting has a negative influence on the quality of the environment, however, others see it as an important component in promoting events, campaigns and music releases, contributing to the vibrancy of town centres. Frequently, views on fly-posting are subjective and influenced by the form and content of the advertisement.

What is Fly-posting?

10. There is no statutory definition of fly-posting. ENCAMS 3 and Keep Scotland Beautiful 4 describe fly-posting as, "any printed material and associated remains informally or illegally fixed to any structure. It excludes approved and managed advertising hoardings and fly-posting sites, and other valid, legally placed signs and notices. It includes any size of material from small stickers up to large posters" 5 . Adverts displayed on movable objects such as advertising 'A' boards, billboards on movable bases on farmland and other open land, on 'barrage balloons', dirigibles or airships and business cards and handbills placed under vehicle windscreen wipers and vehicle door handles may, depending on the circumstances, be illegal but do not constitute fly-posting. The by-products of fly-posting include remnants of partially-removed stickers, posters and the remains of adhesive tape, cable ties and other fixings that had been used to stick posters to surfaces.

11. The vast majority of incidents of fly-posting can be summarised in four distinctive groups:

  • Adverts primarily for local events / sales / promotions. Often photocopies put up in large numbers on a regular basis, advertising events such as bands playing in pubs, or car-boot sales. They may be attached to lamp-posts, railings and street furniture or pasted on buildings.
  • Posters advertising products of large organisations. Put up by professional poster companies, these are usually large, high quality, colour posters, often promoting performers and products from global music companies or national events, pasted on vacant buildings and structures such as telephone kiosks or control boxes. Target audiences are often young people, students or minority interest groups.
  • Stickers advertising both national and local products or events. Generally small in size, advertising products, websites, clubs, businesses and services.
  • Posters displayed by political bodies, pressure groups or individuals. These are generally ad hoc and sporadic with no clear pattern to their location. Personal notices often include notices for lost pets, birthday greetings, personal messages, etc. However, the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) Regulations 1984 Part IV, Paragraph 12 (1)(a) provides that election notices put up by political parties, any advertisements required to be displayed under a standing order or other legislation, or traffic signs required for the control, guidance or safety of traffic, are deemed to have planning consent and are not therefore considered to be fly-posting. A standard condition [Paragraph 12 (2)(a)] requires that any election advertising must be removed within 14 days of the close of the poll in the election to which the advertisement relates.

12. Posters and stickers are often put up on any available flat surface, including derelict or empty properties, shop fronts and walls, temporary fencing, construction site hoardings, lamp-posts, poles, railings, and various items of street furniture such as public utility cabinets, container bins, litter bins, signs. Usually they are put up without the consent of the owner.

The scale of the problem

13. Fly-posting is prominent in most of Scotland's towns and cities. Currently, the problems are typically local to specific parts of the urban centre associated with central shopping areas, high density residential areas, key transport routes and interchanges, leisure districts and areas with a strong evening economy.

14. Keep Scotland Beautiful have undertaken Local Environmental Audit and Management System ( LEAMS) surveys across all 32 local authorities in Scotland 6 . The assessment included aspects of environmental quality by looking at Adverse Environmental Quality Indicators, which include dog fouling, vandalism, graffiti, weeds, detritus and fly-posting. The results of the April 2005 to February 2006 survey found that fly-posting was present in 1% of the surveyed sites throughout Scotland and did not appear to be a national problem. However, some of the more urban local authorities, such as Glasgow and Edinburgh, were found to contain relatively high levels of fly-posting throughout their areas, suggesting a need for more localised action to reduce the problem. The more rural local authority areas had either no or negligible levels of fly-posting, with such fly-posting as does exist mainly being associated with summer tourist attractions and road side businesses along trunk roads.

Locational trends

15. Research 7 suggests that the scale and nature of the problem varies between the following locations:

  • Large metropolitan cities (e.g. Edinburgh and Glasgow) Usually located in the city centre and areas with high student populations to advertise night clubs and music events. Large publicity campaigns for well-known pop artists and groups are run by professional businesses, delivering high-impact publicity.
  • Small cities and large towns (e.g. Aberdeen, Perth and Stirling) Often advertising small businesses, bands playing in pubs or car-boot sales. Occasionally, out-of-town companies will advertise a one-off event, such as a golf or carpet sale.
  • Rural towns and villages Mainly a summer issue associated with tourist areas. Otherwise, fly-posting is generally limited to advertising local community events.

16. Local authorities can experience difficulties in the enforcement of fly-posting powers, as identification of either the beneficiaries or the fly-posting companies is not always possible. A familiarity with local businesses and venues will aid local authorities in smaller cities and towns, however, the extent of the problem and number of fly-posting incidents can make it impossible to identify offenders in larger cities. A beneficiary may be the owner or occupier of the property on which the advertisement is displayed, or the person or organisation to whom the advertisement gives publicity. Companies involved in fly-posting and those using it as a medium for advertising often seek to disguise the origin of the poster, making it difficult and time consuming to track down the beneficiary. However, details of all registered companies are held by Companies House and often companies that are linked directly to advertised products can be identified through a simple internet search.

The need for advice

17. Fly-posting is illegal and is controlled under a range of legislation. It constitutes an environmental crime, along with a wide range of issues such as graffiti, littering, fly-tipping and dog fouling. Fly-posting damages the physical environment, is detrimental to quality of place and communities, has high clean-up costs and is linked to antisocial behaviour. Fly-posting can significantly reduce the attractiveness of urban areas, especially those in need of regeneration. ENCAMS states that, "fly-posting attracts graffiti, sending out the signal an area is uncared for and can exacerbate people's fear of crime. This in turn stops businesses choosing to locate there and can also keep visitors away" 8 . It is extremely difficult to eradicate fly-posting completely but if left unchecked, it can project an air of neglect and decline that reflects badly on the image and quality of a town or city centre. The combination of fly-posting, fly-tipping, litter, graffiti and noise encourages other, low-level crime incidents, antisocial behaviour and contributes to the degrading of our streets and public realm. In turn, poor quality of place has an adverse impact on economic regeneration, tourism and inward investment. PAN 59 notes that, "centres that are uncared for can appear dangerous or dirty, which will be a deterrent to visitors and can be a disincentive to private investment." 9

18. The Association of Town Centre Management Fly-Posting and Graffiti Policy Summary states, "indicators have shown that towns and cities with little or no graffiti or fly posters are associated with better store performance. The clean and safe factor contributes towards the elimination of these acts through the confidence of shoppers, workers, visitors and the general public venturing out onto the streets maintaining a public presence (crowding out crime). A busy, vibrant town or city with a high footfall is often associated with improved or maintained standards in relation to street cleaning, reduced or no graffiti, police presence, CCTV, and full time employment." 10

19. Safety may be compromised where fly-posting obscures road signs or distracts drivers. Information from road accident databases suggests that external-to-vehicle driver distraction caused by visual clutter, which may include legal and illegal advertising boards, is a significant contributory factor to road accidents.

20. Fly-posting is most frequently a deliberate activity. Many fly-poster users are fully aware of the illegality of the activity, but the commercial interests and a perception that the users can avoid enforcement suggest that its use is likely to continue to grow. However, research also shows there is a lack of awareness of the need for advertising consents by some community groups, student societies and individuals.

Roles of local authorities

21. Local authorities perform a number of key functions with regard to controlling fly-posting:

  • Preparation of Local Plan policy, including enforcement of planning legislation to deter and prosecute fly-posters
  • Community planning working within partnerships with other key agencies and community interests
  • Licensing and regulation of venues
  • Street cleansing functions
  • Transport functions
  • Health and safety

Case Study 1:
Town Centre Management, Scotland

A Guide to Good Practice CoverTown centre management schemes make a significant difference to the quality and competitiveness of town centres. Twenty out of the thirty-two local authorities in Scotland have town centre managers. Partnership-based town centre initiatives have successfully dealt with fly-posting issues. Town centre management can:

  • Create environments that are clean and safe by investing in maintenance
    and security
  • Stimulate growth by inward investment and development and through work with existing businesses
  • Enhance quality through public art and major infrastructure improvements to the public realm
  • Ensure that the town or city centre is welcoming to all and an experience worth having.