Council ‘powerless’ against massive advertising hoardings

Netflix advertisement, 10 – 20 Kingsland Road, Dalston. Pic: Sean Russell

At Shoreditch High Street two giant iPhone adverts cover the building frontages in what looks like attempt to mirror Time Square in New York. However, planning records show that these advertisements are illegal.

Hackney council appears powerless against the giant illegal adverts in the borough. At least 25 giant adverts are without planning permission and are therefore illegal but have not been removed despite council attempts.

These illegal giant posters aren’t exclusive to Hackney, but the high number of such prominent advertisements seems to be a particular problem for iun the borough, with only a handful elsewhere in the country. The reasons for this are unclear.

The view of council planning official Micheal Garvey in a 2017 report on 32 Shoreditch High Street adorned by one of the many iPhone adverts was damming: “The proposal, given its size, design and location has an unacceptable impact upon the character and appearance of the subject building, the South Shoreditch conservation area and nearby listed buildings and the surrounding streetscene, and is therefore harmful to the visual amenity of the area.”

32 Shoreditch High Street. Pic: Sean Russell

According to the report, the advert is contrary to policies 7.4, 7.6 and 7.8 of the London Plan, which sets out the framework for development across the capital. These particular policies are to do with local character, architecture, and heritage assets.

In some cases, the advertisements, such as 32 Shoreditch High Street, held temporary planning permission suggesting that they were only up during building works and would have been covering scaffolding before being removed entirely. However, no building work has taken place and the adverts are still up, in some cases for as many as 10 years after the first applications went to the council.

In 2017, Garvey said: “It has been 8 years since the works started. Advertisements have been displayed at the site without consent for significant periods in the intervening years. There are no works being carried out.” It is known that Hackney Council are well aware of the illegal advertisements but constraints on the legal powers and finances they have available have dampened any enforcement attempts.

The advertising companies on the other hand have large resources. The legal process to enforce against the adverts would take 18-24 months, in which time the advertisements would have generated enough income to make any fine they receive insignificant.

1 Great Eastern Street, Shoreditch. Pic: Sean Russell

Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville told Eastlondonlines that more powers for local authorities and the strengthening of the role of the Advertising Standards Agency is needed. He said: “As well as more powers for local authorities to take swift action in cases… clearly landlords and advertisers also have a moral responsibility to consider the welfare and wellbeing of residents in placing advertisements in the first place. There also may be a case for strengthening the role of the Advertising Standards Authority if we keep seeing these kind of egregious cases.”

Recently one of these illegal advertisements was removed in Dalston after campaigning by Hackney North and Stoke Newington parliamentary candidate Alex Armitage and pressure from Eastlondonlines and others.

The advertisement was strewn across the windows of 17 flats, blocking their daylight and air. At least one other advertisement is known to be across the windows of flats, but it is more often the case that the advertisements adorn offices and empty buildings.

The now removed advert as 600 Kingsland Road, Dalston. Pic: Sean Russell

Glanville said: “The iPhone billboard placement in Dalston was a disgraceful example of an unethical practice by landlords and advertisers which had the effect of blocking residents’ access to light. The Council had been raising concerns for a while and we will continue to fight examples like this where we find them.”

There are at least 25 other examples of illegal advertisements in Hackney alone, and at least 1 in Tower Hamlets. But council currently lack the resources to tackle these advertisement companies.

333 Old Street. Pic: Sean Russell

Some of these advertisements are owned by a company called BlowUP Media, an advertisement company which claims to have invented “the giant poster in 1992.”

The company have a portfolio of large posters across the country, but in most cases have removed the adverts when the planning permission has expired; such as an advert plastered to the side of the Holiday Inn, Lime Street, Liverpool, which was there for three years. BlowUP Media have not responded to Eastlondonlines’ request for comment.

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