Q. I have recently used my bar staff to hand out promotional flyers in our local town centre for one of our gig nights being held at the pub. A council enforcement officer told one of my staff that I must obtain permission to hand out leaflets and that I could also be fined. Is this correct and if so how do I obtain the correct permit?
A. Depending upon the type of promotional material you are distributing, you could be committing an offence by causing another person to distribute free material without appropriate consent. While the use of free promotional material can be a powerful marketing tool, we have all observed streets covered with flyers promoting a range of events and products.
The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 provided powers to local authorities for the designation of specific areas where the distribution of free printed material would be prohibited if prior consent is not obtained.
The purpose of the legislation was to enable the litter authority to control leaflet distribution and prevent associated problems. The prohibition also applies to the placement of ‘printed matter’ on vehicles but does not apply to putting such material inside a building or letterbox. Leaflets distributed by or on behalf of a registered charities or any free material distributed for political, belief or religious purposes are not so restricted.
As it is appears that your promotional flyers are not caught by one of the exemptions above, you could be subject to a fine of up to £2,500. The individual handing out the flyers may also be committing an offence if permission is required and they could also be liable to a fine not exceeding £2,500. In addition enforcement officers have the power to seize any material that is being distributed without the appropriate permission. Where it appears an offence has been committed, an authorised officer may issue a fixed-penalty notice offering the offender the chance to avoid a conviction and the higher fine. The amount of the fixed penalty can vary across authorities, although if an amount is not specified, it must be £75.
This prohibition does not automatically apply and the local principal litter authority/council must issue an order that identifies those areas that are to be designated and flyer distribution prevented.
Local authorities may give permission for flyers to be distributed, although a prescribed fee will often be required and it may be restricted to specific times and relate to the nature of the material distributed. Authorities are not obliged to grant permission, which can be refused if the authority considers that any such distribution would lead to a “defacement of the designated land”.
You can check online to see whether your local council has made an order designating a restricted area (https://www.gov.uk/permission-to-distribute-leaflets). The link will also direct you to the appropriate application guidance should permission be required.
You should check whether a permit is required next time.