Friday, 6 January 2012
Put out more flags!
Rejoice! Rejoice! Uncle Eric is going to allow you to fly lots more flags. Today’s important announcement from DeCLoG is not new; the proposal to relax the Control of Advertisements Regulations to allow greater freedom to fly flags was, er, flagged up in May of last year.
Quite a lot of people were probably unaware that there are any restrictions on flying flags, but they are deemed to be advertisements, and so subject to control. The argument is that, even if the flag or flags do not display a commercial name or logo, it has the effect of drawing attention to the building or site on which it is being flown, and so is a form of advertising.
Uncle Eric has a few bees in his bonnet. One of them is the desirability of reducing ministerial planning advice to a mere 50 pages or so (and we all know where that has led); another is that greater freedom to fly flags is an absolutely essential contribution to the stimulation of economic growth in this year of the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympic Games.
As today’s DeCLoG discussion documents puts it:
“Flags deserve respect:
• They can demonstrate power and identity
• They can inspire pride
• They can rally people behind a cause
• They are a very British way of expressing joy.”
[Honestly, I am not making this up – that is what it actually says. In fact I have a shrewd suspicion that this document was drafted by Uncle Eric in person.]
However, before Uncle Eric hogs all the kudos for this stunningly brilliant initiative, which is so important in face of the continuing Eurozone crisis and the deteriorating economic situation, we should perhaps remind ourselves that a similar initiative was announced as long ago as July 2006 by the then planning minister in the Labour Government (Yvette Cooper). In fact, if you go to http://planningmatter.blogspot.com/2006_07_01_archive.html you will find a piece I wrote about ‘Flying the Flag’ in my old blog.
What had prompted ministerial interest in the subject back then was a report on Channel 4 News (at a time when the World Cup was on) which drew attention to the potential legal hazards of displaying flags. The news report, on what must have been a ‘slow news’ day, drew attention to the fact that the regulations permit the flying of a flag vertically but not horizontally or at an angle. The TV people even managed to get an interview with Yvette Cooper, who promised to change the regulations and expressed the hope that local planning authorities would not take enforcement action in the meantime.
And now - oh, joy of joys - only some five and a half years later, Uncle Eric has solemnly announced in paragraph 21 of the discussion paper that he will remove the stipulation that the flagstaff must be ‘vertical’. I can hardly contain my excitement.
It would be wrong to suggest that it’s going to be a total flag-waving free-for-all; the policy wonks at DeCLoG could never contemplate anything so revolutionary as that. So we can look forward to some exquisitely detailed (but badly drafted and ambiguous) amendments to the Control of Advertisements Regulations to put Uncle Eric’s bright ideas into practice. (After all, they’ve got to keep us planning lawyers in remunerative employment.)
Isn’t it wonderful that we have a government that is so proactive in reforming the planning system that they do not shirk from coming forward with brave initiatives like this. It must make members of the Conservative Party proud to be British.
© MARTIN H GOODALL