Thursday, 24 October 2013

More banner adverts

(Third in an occasional series)

I drew attention in two previous posts to large banner adverts displayed in Venice (Monday, 13 February 2012) and in Paris (Tuesday, 7 August 2012). The point of those two posts was that even in very sensitive locations, in terms of the historic townscape, the authorities in those cities are prepared to allow the display of banner adverts on buildings which are shrouded during the execution of repairs and maintenance. Bearing in mind that such advertising displays are, by their very nature, temporary, there can be no serious objection to such advertising to hide the paraphernalia of building work and scaffolding. Where the work comprises conservation of the historic fabric, the advertising revenue could even contribute to the cost of restoration.

The essential point I was seeking to make, is that if the city authorities in Venice are prepared to allow such temporary banner adverts in a World Heritage Site, such as the Piazza San Marco or, if the City of Paris is happy to allow them in the Place Vendôme, then there really can’t be any objection to similar short-term adverts in this country, even in conservation areas or World Heritage Sites, where they serve to hide the detritus of building work. And there certainly can’t be any objection to such advertising in the average and often undistinguished town centres of many English towns and cities.

I visited Venice again a month or so ago and, as I had expected, the Doge’s Palace is now visible in all its glory, sans advertising, as is the Bridge of Sighs, which had been similarly hidden from view on my last visit. The east front of Sansovino’s Library, facing onto the Piazzetta is also now free of advertising, but restoration work is continuing on various other parts of the Palazzo Reale, and so banner adverts are currently displayed over the shrouding on the south front of the Zucca (facing onto the Mole) and also at the west end of the Piazza San Marco (the range added to the palace by Napoleon, and now forming part of the Museo Correr). The accompanying photos illustrate these adverts.

[The “Caro” adverts on the façade of the Museo Correr would probably have been there anyway, as they were advertising a display in the museum of sculptures by the British artist, Anthony Caro, which was part of the Biennale.]

I doubt whether we will ever overcome the precious attitudes of town planners in this country to outdoor advertising, and so the only practical way of ensuring that banner adverts can be displayed in future on buildings under repair (or awaiting demolition, such as the late unlamented Tollgate House in Bristol), without being obstructed or frustrated by over-zealous town planners, is to amend the Control of Advertisements Regulations to give deemed to consent to such adverts.

Uncle Eric has demonstrated his enthusiasm for flying flags; so perhaps he should now embrace the joys of outdoor advertising in the same way.



  1. My view is rather different. At the risk of sounding like the Price of Wales, banner advertising is starting to blight our cities. Certainly in Liverpool fly-bannering on gates, railings and walls with or without permission is out of control and has cumulatively caused a detriment to visual amenity in many areas.

  2. I love Venice, it is a beautiful place, all man made - BP - Before Planners. Who would have thought that humans can manage the environment without making a mess of it, we create some wonderful things including landscapes that other want to protect for a minority.

    I have seen business people struggle to obtain permission to erect a temporary sign during the tourist season, by the time the planners get round to it the holidaymakers have all gone home.

    We could list the pet hates of planners, advertising would be at or near the top.

    Planning courses should include the elements of business need such as marketing and the economic benefits which should hold more weight as they do in Wales after last November, we hope. The planners I deal with seem to think they can ignore any guidance (and law) that doesn't meet with their approval.

    I feel an email coming on.

  3. on the contrary they scar the views of the buildings. Good evidence to demonstrate we should not copy these harmful mistakes.

  4. Do you have some examples of where uk planners have resisted such adverts?

  5. I am responding to this group of comments together.

    As regards examples, they are too numerous to mention. Two particularly annoying examples in Bristol, in both of which I was professionally involved, spring to mind, and I am aware of many others that have been brought to my attention over the years. There are some cities that are more welcoming to this type of temporary advertising, but the attitude is all too often negative and unimaginative. Planners don’t seem to appreciate that they are being given a golden opportunity to hide ugly building works and to brighten up the townscape for a few months.

    The important point is that banner adverts are purely temporary, and I am proposing that they should be permitted only for the duration of building works involving the shrouding of a building. Any abuse of such a provision can be prevented by limiting the period of display to a maximum of 12 months or the completion of the works (whichever is the sooner). But there should be an option to apply to the LPA for an extension if the building works have been genuinely and unavoidably delayed. Such an extension, however, would be a matter of discretion for the LPA.

    As I have said before, banners hide eyesores, and I would much rather see a banner advert on a building for a time than the unlovely sight of the unclad building while works are being carried out. The point of this series of posts is that if banner adverts can be allowed in Venice and in Paris (and I could cite other examples, which may be the subject of future posts) then planners in this country have absolutely no excuse for seeking to resist this type of temporary advertising.

  6. Isn't British planners antipathy towards temporary banner advertisements hiding construction works merely a symptom of the antipathy to commerce that still permeates the public sector?

  7. I rather think this latest comment is right. Planning officers hate people saying this about them, but too few of them have had any real experience in the private sector, and so they simply don’t ‘get’ the importance of replying promptly to correspondence with clear answers, making timely decisions, and above all taking a positive attitude towards commercial development in all its forms (including outdoor advertising). The horror stories I hear of people’s dealings with council planning departments around the country would fill a thick book!

  8. The adverts pictured are for rather ostentatious goods and look stylish and therefore somewhat appropriate in those grand settings. I wonder how you might feel Martin if it were an advert for some tat like some frozen chicken nuggets or a questionable company like a payday loan company?

    Of course the content of advertisements is immaterial as you know.

    The side-angle picture of the Gucci advert looks like the facade of the building behind is 2D. Was that also some sort of painting/cover?

  9. In answer to the latest comment, the subject matter of the adverts is, as this correspondent points out, entirely immaterial. These shroud adverts are not cheap, so it tends to be high value goods or services that are advertised in this way, but I see no objection to 'cheaper' goods being advertised - neither the subject matter nor the artwork matter.

    The ‘Gucci’ ad on the Zucca is on a larger shroud that covers the whole façade of the building, the remaining surface being a trompe l’oeuil representation of the façade. Something similar can be seen on the advert on the front of the Museo Correr. This is quite often done.

    Before anyone suggests that the whole wall could be shrouded in this way without any advertising, this would only serve to increase the cost of an already costly conservation project. It only becomes viable if some revenue can be generated from the advertising.

  10. While I would not dispute that there is in general a reluctance amongst LPA planners to give consent to such advertisements, I would say that in my experience this view is almost always entirely in line with the views of local communities, elected politicians and planning committees and often in accordance with Local Plan policies and SPDs.

    To address your general point, I do not think there really is a such a lack of understanding of the private sector as you suggest and I find such generalisations unhelpful in trying to promote better working relationships between public and private sector planners. Most LPA planners that I know are very conscious of the needs of business but also have to balance those needs against other impacts in accordance with existing policy. Again, the issue of the political dimension should not be overlooked.

    In terms of speed of response, in my experience this is largely a resource issue. The present government emphasis on speed of decision making against a backdrop of budget cuts of >20% in LAs is clearly contradictory and, in my opinion, it is disingenuous to suggest that both can happen at once. Please believe me when I say that LPA planners do not like spending their days facing unachievable deadlines and constantly fielding calls/emails/complaints about outstanding work from applicants and agents in the private sector.

    I don't dispute that there is work to do in terms of the attitudes of SOME LPA planners (as there is with SOME private sector planners) and with the internal procedures of some LPAs but those are genuinely minor issues compared to the overwhelming problem of a lack of resource and stability in planning departments generally. If the private sector really wants speed of decision making then it must join with the LGA in lobbying government for the proper resourcing of LPAs to enable them to help deliver growth through sustainable development.

  11. I have recently returned from Marseille where there is a most imaginative full-height full-width "shroud" screening a public building that is being refurbished. It includes a very clever trompe d'oeil that makes the facade appear to be a continuation of the main street opposite. It includes at night a movie projection that enhances the illusion with people and traffic projected at the base and false street lights with lighting on the balconies of the "buildings" above that makes the whole thing magical. I guarantee that many people pass by without realising that this is an illusion and the facade is flat. There was no obvious advertising that I could see, but that may be because I can't read French!