Beware of leafleting pitfalls at your pub

By Nick Arron

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Council Premises licence Council of the european union

Fly profile: most councils in the land have a zero-tolerant approach towards advertising using flyposters
Fly profile: most councils in the land have a zero-tolerant approach towards advertising using flyposters
Handing out leaflets and vouchers is a popular way of increasing footfall, but councils are getting tired of picking them up afterwards.

Complaints to councils are on the increase and some are looking at ways of clamping down on leafleting in the street. So, if you are participating, make sure you stay within the law.  

Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, it is an offence for any person to “throw down, drop or otherwise deposit litter” and leave it in any public area under the control of the council.

Places such as parks, car parks, streets, canal walkways and even the canal itself are covered. If prosecuted, a person can be fined up to £2,500. Most councils will issue a fixed-penalty notice ranging from £50 to £80.

I doubt that you or your staff will be the ones that are littering but the public could be liable if they dispose of your leaflet — and I am pretty sure that they won’t forget your leaflet then!

Premises that sell food and drink for consumption off the premises should also clear litter generated by the business for up to 100 metres in either direction of the frontage.

If they do not, the council can serve a street litter control notice. The notice will set out steps that the council expects you to take to keep the area clean.

You can appeal such a notice to the magistrates’ court but if you don’t and are prosecuted for a breach, you can be fined £2,500.
Licence to dole out leaflets?

Some councils specifically prohibit any kind of leaflet distribution in a designated area. The council must be satisfied that the area is being defaced by disregarded free promotional material.

If you are distributing leaflets in the street you should contact the council to check.  

If the council grants you a licence, it is likely to have restrictions that could cover the type of material which you can distribute, when it can be done and how many distributors you can employ.

There will also be a fee.

If you distribute material without the requisite licence, you could be prosecuted and fined up to £2,500, or issued with an £80 fixed-penalty notice. 
Premises licence

Some premises licences have conditions that specifically prohibit handing out leaflets or advertisement material to members of the public in the street, or any public area.

The penalty for a breach can lead to a fine of up to £20,000 and/or six months’ imprisonment if prosecuted. More than likely, a warning letter will be sent by the council and failure to comply could result in a review of your premises licence.  

Even if there are no conditions on your premises licence you could still face a licence review if it is believed that the litter, or the individual handing out of the leaflets, are causing a public nuisance.

Also, if you have been prosecuted or issued with fixed-penalty notices for operating without the requisite licence from the council to distribute leaflets or for flyposting, you could even find that it cites that you, or your premises, are having an adverse impact upon crime and disorder levels in the area. 

There are various pieces of legislation that govern flyposting. 
Flyposting is the illegal display of advertisements or promotional material without the necessary permission either from the owner of
the property or the council, upon buildings, lampposts, litter bins, other public spaces etc.

Most councils now have a zero-tolerance approach towards this type of advertising.  

Penalties for illegal flyposting can range from a fixed-penalty notice of £80 or prosecution with a fine of up to £2.500. Fixed-penalty notices are generally reserved for the individuals who fix the material and not the business that employed them to do it.

Under certain pieces of legislation an additional £250 fine can be imposed for each day that the offence continues.  

In serious cases for persistent offenders some councils will apply for an antisocial behaviour order.  

The council will write to you and give you 24 days to remove the offending material before prosecuting. If you don’t remove the material the council will do so and charge you for it.

Generally, councils will immediately remove material close to the road because it may distract drivers — and they will then charge you for having to remove it.  

Some authorities have a designated area where flyposting is permitted, so if you want to advertise a local band that is playing in your pub or a comedy night, speak to your local council to check whether it has a designated area and ensure that your posters are displayed within it and nowhere else.

Related topics Licensing law

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