Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Run it up the flagpole!

It’s good to know that the Secretary of State has got his eye firmly on the ball, and that he will leave no stone unturned in his unremitting efforts to restore Britain’s ailing economy.

The whole world will therefore stand back in wonder and amazement at the latest announcement from De-CLoG, confirming the relaxation of the Advertisement Control Regulations to allow more flags to be flown in future. These changes have, of course, been announced on at least two previous occasions. (Ministers love to make announcements; it makes it look as though they are actually doing something, and so it is not unusual for new initiatives, even of the most trivial nature, to be announced at least twice and sometimes on three or four separate occasions.)

I could not have invented Uncle Eric’s words even in my wildest flight of satirical fancy. He is reported as having said of this dynamic and decisive ministerial action: “Flags unite communities across colour, creed and class, so I am cutting municipal red tape to make it easier to fly Britain's varied and diverse flags without state interference. I've been celebrating this sense of patriotic pride by flying a range of flags outside my Department in recent months and look forward to seeing more flags flying around the country with the relaxation of these rules." [Memo to Westminster City Council – This was before the law changed, so Pickles was committing a criminal offence. Prosecute the man, I say!]

So even though the Olympic Games are now behind us, we can keep the warm afterglow going by putting out the flags, by courtesy of the greatest of our Secretaries of State.

As for the details, you can start flying the extra flags on 12 October. The new rules are set out in the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2012 (S.I. 2012 No.2372). There are, of course, various conditions and limitations – after all, the bureaucrats must have something left for them still to do. So don’t run away with the idea that you can now fly any old flag wherever you like.

Class H of Schedule 1 (adverts that are exempt from control altogether) has been slightly, but not dramatically, widened. The previous version of the Regulations allowed the flag of any saint to be flown. Now, following these changes, this is confined to the flags of St David and St Patrick. Obviously the flags of St George and St Andrew are also included, as national flags, but what about the flag of St Paul (frequently flown by churches within the Diocese of London), for example, or the flags of other saints denoting various Church of England dioceses. Would these count as ‘the flag of any parish’? I am not sure that they would, unless they happen also to be the flag of one of the other administrative areas listed in this class. Diocesan flags don’t seem to feature in this list as such. So, enforcement officers – be alert! And be prepared to prosecute any vicar who has the effrontery to fly the flag of an unauthorised saint, in breach of the law.

Class 7 in Schedule 3 (adverts which have deemed consent) is also enlarged, but again only slightly. The main change here is the ability to fly flags other than from a flagpole on the roof of a building. And, yes - as promised, you can fly it at any angle you like (even suspended upside down!), provided it is not in a conservation area, AONB, National Park or area of special advertisement control.

If you want more details, you will have to look it all up for yourselves. The main point is that the rules controlling flag-flying have been relaxed only slightly and that they are still hedged around with various ifs and buts.

After all this exhausting effort to change the rules on flying flags, the Secretary of State can now take a well-earned rest, secure in the knowledge that he has done his bit for Britain on behalf of our wonderful and much-loved coalition government.



  1. Well, I wonder if this is a taste of things to come with the proposed amendments to SI 2008 No 2362.

    No sign of the consultation yet. Any ideas/inside info' on when we might see this, Martin?

  2. Dr Anton Lang MRTPI4 October 2012 at 10:22

    I can now start my day's planning travails safe in the knowledge that the system is solving all the problems in front of it. Great work. Has anyone noticed that once CIL comes in everywhere it will be financially unviable to do anything except fly flags?

    Dr Anton Lang MRTPI

  3. And yet free standing flag poles will usually need consent anyway (well big ones at least)!

    Perhaps a new pd class for flag poles is required?

  4. Wasn't this a fudge to allow Councils to fly EU flags originally?

    If it is one more bit of unnecessary paperwork that has been slaughtered, though - good.

    Did he say anything about Sir Robin Wails' £15m tax on tenants I wonder?

    Or 'lets force students into ghettoes' Article 4 directives?

    Or shared house planning applications when you change from 3 tenants to a family of 4 in a normal house?

    All those sacred cows need to be slaughtered.

  5. Such a great and informative post about flagpoles. This will really help people. Thanks for sharing and keep posting.

  6. Might I point out that it wasn't about flag poles, it was about flags,poles are a whole new matter

  7. The anonymous commentator on 16 June was absolutely right. The Control of Advertisements Regs do not expressly authorise the erection a flagpole, which is (arguably) a ‘structure’ within the meaning of section 55 of the 1990 Act. In practice, I am not aware of any point having been taken as to the erection of a flagpole, as distinct from flying a flag from it. But I could well understand a contrary argument being put forward – namely that advertisement control consent (whether deemed or expressly granted) must necessarily imply consent for the flagpole as well as the display of the flag. There is a passing reference in the regs to the ‘flagstaff’, albeit in terms of what it may not display, which may lend some support to this argument, but this is admittedly a grey area.