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"Warning to distributors" makes activist leafletting impossible!

Bog Brither | 02.10.2006 17:49 | Repression

Nottingham City Council have brought in sweeping new laws that will seriously affect the distribution of free activist literature in and around the city centre. Once again - as with fly posting - laws apparently designed to tackle the unbridled activities of commercial promoters are going to have a serious affect on activism and other legitimate exercise of free speech. In certain areas (which are sure to expand as time goes on, and already include the City Centre), free printed material may only be given out with permission and a bought permit from the council.

"Clean Neighbourhoods" glossy flyer - oh the irony!
"Clean Neighbourhoods" glossy flyer - oh the irony!

All very well for those who can afford a permit and don't want to criticise the council! But clumsy (or is it deliberate?) wording of the legislation makes absolutely no exception for non-profit grassroots activists.

We either have to stump up the cash for a permit (and cross our fingers that they approve of our literature) or shut up. Or we could ignore the law, and be fined up to £2500!


Quoting from their press release:

"Warning to distributors

Nottingham City Council is getting tough on flyer distributors as it continues its bid to make our city's streets cleaner.

New powers are being introduced to the streets of Nottingham to control the free distribution of printed material and as a result the amount of littering on our streets.

Designation of an area requires a person to obtain the Council's consent before distribution can take place. If a person fails to get that consent and distributes material in designated areas an offence is committed for which they can be fined a maximum of £2,500 or a Fixed Penalty Notice can be issued. Distributors can also have the flyers/material seized if no consent has been given.

The Council can only designate land where it is satisfied that the land is being defaced by the discarding of free printed matter. Areas chosen are: Main Street, Bulwell; Mansfeld Road and Gregory Boulevard; Radford Road, Hyson Green; Southchurch, Clifton and the City Centre."

Ironically, the flyer they distributed this information on (a scan of which may be seen above) is glossy print on rather non-recycled looking paper. So presumably by "environment" they're only talking in terms of protecting that which financially affects their operations and keeps shoppers happy, not actually giving a damn about the planet!

What a delightfully ironic situation for campaigners giving out leaflets on REAL environmental issues! (I'm thinking NAIL, Plane Stupid, Friends of the Earth...)

Concerned citizens can vent their disgust about this ridiculously bad legislation to [] - though I wouldn't expect them to listen without a mass public campaign.

Hey, I know! Maybe we could print up some attention-grabbing leaflets and hand them out in Market Squ... D'OOOOOH!!

Bog Brither
- Homepage:


Some Correspondence on the issue : Don't panic, all OK

07.10.2006 11:58

Some Correspondence on the issue




I had read this and the original council announcement and notice the move had created a fair amount of disquiet amongst people concerned about environment, politics and social issues etc

You will note [below] that I had written to Barrie James in the Public Health Dept of the Council to seek clarification about the exceptions the law allows for. He now confirms these.

It is a shame that these had not be advertised. The concerns a few of us have, is that in the absence of such information, wardens and council officers of various sorts would be under-informed that to give someone a leaflet, outlining a political concern, could still result in action / arrest. Obvious examples of the NAIL incinerator campaign, asylum issues, Sharphill Woods development etc etc could all fall foul of these directions.

Personally, I think the direction is proper in view of the amount of waste and commercial literature that is generated by clubs and shops etc. and is in line with the aims of 'Agenda 21'

However, I do hope that the omission of any mention of the distribution of literature of a political nature, by the council, might not have been done delierately. Thus to enable the council to use these orders as a tool to diminish political dissent on issues the local authorities might have found inconvenient, viz: the incinerator. But they wouldn't do that, would they?

This is the question and reply I had made of Barrie James in the Public Health Dept of the Council


Dear Mr Lodge
Thank you for your e-mail reaging the distribution of free printed matter.
The legislation came in to force on the 26th Sept and I am not certain where the date 16th Oct came from. What I did say was that we would spend the first couple of weeks making sure that distributors were aware of the need for a permit. After that time we will expect applications to have been made and if not then enforcement action could commence.
You are correct in your belief that there are exemtions and they are the ones you list in your e-mail. In terms of political purposes the Sec of State has suggested a wide interpretation be made and that the intention is not to inhibit thye right of freedom of expression and freedom of thought, conscience enshrined in the European Convention of Human Rights.
I hope this is of help but please do not hesitate to contact me if any further information is required.

Barrie James

> -----Original Message-----
> From: alan lodge [mailto:]
> Sent: 05 October 2006 14:45
> To:
> Subject: Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 seeking clarification.
> Barrie James - Service Manager
> Public Health
> Lawrence House
> Talbot Street
> Nottingham
> NG1 5NT
> RE: Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005
> Dear Mr Barrie James
> From your announcement at:
> Nottingham City Council Announcement :: Warning to distributors
> and today's article in the Nottingham Evening Post I note these regulation are to be in force from the 16 October 2006.
> I understand that there is much concern about litter created from such commercial activities.

This of course results in increased amounts of rubbish for disposal and clearly provision is made to attempt to deal with this.
> However on reading the act, I notice that there are some exceptions, that are not referred to in your announcement, or indeed, any report I have so far read.
> Having looked at the act, I note that there is an exemption under sect 23 (4a)(4b) Schedule 3A, where the distribution is for charitable and political purposes.
> >>>>>
> Free distribution of printed matter
> Offence of unauthorised distribution
> (4) Nothing in this paragraph applies to the distribution of printed matter-
> (a) by or on behalf of a charity within the meaning of the Charities Act 1993, where the

printed matter relates to or is intended for the benefit of
> the charity;
> (b) where the distribution is for political purposes or for the purposes of a religion or belief.
> >>>>>>
> I would appreciate your views if I have this right, or, if there are other issues I have failed to grasp.
> In sum, within your designated area under the 'Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005', are there exceptions for charitable and political purposes, for the distribution of printed material.
> I am grateful for any help with this matter.
> Regards
> Alan Lodge


So, does that 'do it?'

Photographer - Media: One Eye on the Road. Nottingham. UK
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Hide the following 13 comments

Human rights

02.10.2006 18:36

I Am Not A Lawer, but this should be challengable under human rights law, specifically article 10, freedom of expression:

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

Actually challenging it in court, would either require someone being arrested for not complying, or for someone to take a judicial review of the council's decision about this. I think it would be hard to argue that it is 'necassary in a democratic society [for one of the reasons listed in 10.2]' for those wishing to distribute political litrature to pay a fee in advance.


Another Excuse For Suppression

03.10.2006 00:34

Of course, they will not claim “fear of dissent” as the reason for their new law. They say the issue is litter.

Okay, then we can expect the government to go after McDonalds Restaurants for containers that customers leave lying around.

canadian seer

Exceptions to the rule?

03.10.2006 03:24

It's occurred to me (from a brief chat with a friend who quickly looked into what's going on in a few other cities) that there may be exceptions to this law for political and non-profit groups.

However, even if that's the case and we do have the wrong end of the stick, the leaflet and press release are still deliberately vague (as in deliberately NOT specifying that there are exceptions), which I think is unacceptable.

So regardless, we're either now in a ridiculous bureaucracy or a ridiculous "confusocracy" - either of which is total crap!

Even if the council DO make a statement that it's OK for certain groups to still hand out leaflets, how many jumped-up CSOs are going to know about it? How many less-hardcore activists are now going to play it safe and not hand out their leaflets, for fear of a fine?

I especially agree with the previous poster "canadian seer" about if the real reason is litter! There's no end of McDonalds and other fast "food" crap littering the city centre - a far greater rubbish problem, so why not sort that out and fine the corporations who fill the streets with this junk? It's pretty obvious that "cleaning up Nottingham" means cleaning the streets of all but shops and shoppers.

Seems like it's high time we had a massive Reclaim The Streets party in Nottingham, and at least temporarily rid OUR city of all this corporate monoculture and the hordes of bureaucrats who prop it up.

"Respect for Nottingham" my arse!

Incidentally, the "Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005" - which is a national act of Parliament, so undoubtedly to do with stifling dissent against NuLabour - can be found here:

(Oh, and to the other poster who thinks comments are being deleted - I've noticed that but they seem to come back. I think it's to do with different Indymedia servers mirroring the page and being temporarily out of sync with each other. When that happens, try checking back in an hour or so and it usually seems to be sorted as far as I can tell.)

Bog Brither


03.10.2006 08:29

that they should introduce this. If the Council is only concerned about litter, it already has the power to issue on the spot £50 fines for this. It also has the enforcement capability in the new 'community wardens' or whetever they are called. You know the ones; dressed in para-cop uniforms and patrolling round the Council House to protect shoppers (rather than the residents in areas where support really is needed.

I'm not sure how the virtually bankrupt City Council can afford the cost of this intiative on top of the £7.5 of Nottingham people's money it is blowing on the Market Square tittyfying (delayed I read because its taking longer to get the stone from China than expected - er What environmental policy?)

Yep, time to reclaim some spaces I think.

Bill Stickers

council leaflet warning

03.10.2006 09:43

This is the letter I sent to the Post and Public Health Dept after seeing your article. Borrowed a bit from Bog Brither, hope you don't mind. x K

I am appalled by the new plans to stop people flyering in the city's streets ( The (apparently non-recycled glossy print paper) leaflet that is being handed out by the Council - without any obvious sense of irony - demands a permit and a fee to distribute leaflets that are not approved by the Council, and states that this is 'as a result the amount of littering on our streets'.

These plans, ostensibly to 'make the city's streets cleaner' because 'land is being defaced by the discarding of free printed matter', are actually going to have a serious affect on activism and other legitimate exercises of free speech.

I have been involved in the recent successful campaign for NAIL, exercising my rights to object to plans to unnecessarily expand the city's dirty, poorly-managed and outdated incinerator. Owners WRG were defeated through a democratic process of listening to the people affected by the plans, who overwhelmingly spoke out against expansion. A 3,200-signed petition was handed into the Council as a result. This campaign also completely changed the view of all three political parties, as well as Rushcliffe Borough Council (all pro-expansion in 2005) and thousands of local people who were misinformed and unaware that this city even has an incinerator, let alone the fact that it was planning an expansion.

The NAIL campaign was, and continues to be, completely apolitical - but do you think it would have been granted a permit from the Council to distribute leaflets to the public? We had to call in all sorts of favours just to produce them (on recycled paper, I may add) - there's no way we could have afforded to pay a fee to hand them out!!

I agree that there are a huge amount of club and event promoters approaching people in the street. This is marketing. But there are also legitimate campaigns and issues that can only reach the public by this method. How many of you have signed a petition on a stand in St Petersgate? How many have given to a charity that you may not have been aware of before? How many people did not know about Eastcroft Incinerator's plans to expand (and it's appalling emission breaches) before they were handed a leaflet with the facts? I didn't, and I was so horrified I joined the fight - and won the campaign.

It is the public who cause land to be defaced - those rude and frankly ignorant people who throw this 'matter' on the streets, rather than refuse it or bin it if they don't want it. The very same people that think it's ok to drop cigarettes on the street, who don't teach their children that littering is offensive and dirty, and dismissively drop their rubbish on the street rather than dispose of it properly. If I don't want a flyer from a promoter or campaigner, I simply say "no thank you", hand it back to them when I am pressed one or recycle it back at home.

I agree with Bog Brither on Indymedia who says that "presumably by 'environment' (the Council) are only talking in terms of protecting that which financially affects their operations and keeps shoppers happy, not actually giving a damn about the planet!" and laughs at this "delightfully ironic situation for campaigners giving out leaflets on REAL environmental issues!". The NAIL Campaign would not have reached so many people without this type of action. Who will lose out if it's stopped?

Kaye Brennan
Colwick, Nottingham


Keep it up!

03.10.2006 11:40

Yeah great! Start writing letters. This is an understandable way of adressing the litter issue in the city especially with all the clubs and bars printing off thousands of flyers every week, most of them which never get written, to than be thrown away! But it would be good to find out if there are exeptions. Otherwise it would be time to jump into action! Keep up the good work everyone!

A NAIL campaigner

Erm what about part (4)

03.10.2006 11:42

(4) Nothing in this paragraph applies to the distribution of printed matter-

(a) by or on behalf of a charity within the meaning of the Charities Act 1993, where the printed matter relates to or is intended for the benefit of the charity;

(b) where the distribution is for political purposes or for the purposes of a religion or belief.

Doesnt that mean your fine guys?

Tofu Bloc

Tofu bloc is right but...

03.10.2006 13:23

Nottingham City Council do not state this in their leaflet. It is therefore misleading. Would the council staff on the ground know about these exceptions or would we have to prove it in court after they have stopped us?

Bill Stickers

Right to leaflet victory in Lambeth

05.10.2006 09:21

Last time the Nuclear Trains Action Group of London Region CND leafletted outside Brixton tube, on November 5th 2005, we were approached by 2 people who identified themselves as employees of Lambeth Council who asked us whether we had “permission” to leaflet in that vicinity. We pointed out that we didn’t realise we needed such permission and indeed, we had leafletted at that spot many times over the years without any question of permission arising. The 2 told us to desist leafletting, but then went away without taking any further action.

Apparently, other groups have had similar encounters in that area and on February 25th, as reported by Jim Brann, while he was on Brixton Road outside WH Smith’s doing publicity for the March 18th national “Troops Home from Iraq – Don’t attack Iran” demo, he was approached by employees of “Lambeth Street Care” who questioned his right to be there without “permission”. They then gave him a copy of a document entitled, “London Local Authorities Act 1994 Section 4(2,4) Distributiion of Free Literature and London Local Authorities Act 1990 Section 21(2) Street Trading.” I kid you not! I have a copy of this document in front of me.

The document then goes on to say, in relation to the distribution question [punctuation and grammatical construction as in the original], “Dear Sir/Madam, Lambeth Council would like to WARN you that you are in breach of the above acts respectively which says:

“Distrbution of Free Literature
“2) Any person/s who distributes free literature in a place designated without the consent of the borough council or in breach of any condition subject to which the council’s consent is given. Causes or permits any persons so to do shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 2 on the standard scale.

“4) Where a person is distributing free literature in a place designated without the consent of the borough council an authorised officer may SEIZE any supply of that. Literature which the person has at or near that place.”

We may pause to wonder at the authoritarian tendencies of the present administration even in small matters - the legislation seems to require that permission be sought simply to give out leaflets. Most councils it seems however have better things to do than enforce such legislation. Not Lambeth.

Jim wrote to the Lambeth Markets Manager, who had signed the above document, arguing that, “Any claimed implementation of another statute is to be viewed in the light of the provisions of the Human Rights Act 1998.” He then refers the Manager to sections 10 and 11 of that Act.

In reply the Market Manager wrote that his staff would continue to enforce the legislation in question, and continued: “NOBODY is allowed to distribute free literature or set up ANY receptacles on Brixton Road, because that stretch of road is NOT a designated area for that sort of activity, by ANYBODY, regardless of the content of the message….What you don’t understand is that there is a designated place designated by Lambeth Council in Brixton, Dorrell Place or Tunstall Road (weekdays) on Brixton Road for anybody regardless of the contents of their message…Therefore your rights to campaign and express your views under the Human Rights Act is not been affected, you just cannot do it on Brixton Road without permission and arrangements with the Market office.”

However, Jim had had the foresight to copy this letter to the Borough Solicitor, who wrote: “Following careful consideration of the relevant statutes that are quoted as authorities we would inform you that it has been determined that the interpretation placed on the wording of the particular statutes by enforcement officers was erroneous and that you were incorrectly told that your distribution of documents was contrary to the law. In these circumstances we apologise for these actions and trust that it has not caused you too much inconvenience.”

A small victory for human rights in Lambeth!

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Re: Right to leaflet victory in Lambeth

05.10.2006 10:20

To join the Freedom To Protest (FTP) announcements list, send an email to:


help, we've been fined

08.12.2007 13:13

Hi, In Leeds two of us have been fined under "Environmental protection Act 1990 (Section 94B Schedule 3A) for handing out leaflets during a protest. We were demonstrating about the proposed changes to the Corn Exchange in Leeds (read more here: Police came and ask whether we had permits to distribute "free printed material". We didn't know that the whole city centre now falls into this new rule that makes you pay a permit top distribute flyers. We pointed that surely political protests would not apply but officers responded that ONLY POLITICAL PARTIES COUNTED!. We obviously sent a letter of complaint and the respond reads:

"whilst we appreciate your argument regarding what is and what isn't a political purpose, we have taken this to mean a registered political party and our legal division is fully prepared to chanllenge your defense. By allowing any other meaning of a political purpose, it would open the door to all manner of events and promotions where the person can simply suggest that it was in their opinion, "political""

We intend to follow this up. Anyone has suggestion about how to follow this up??


re: Fined

08.12.2007 13:35

Note that Lambeth backed down on this - see comments above. Also Oxford notes that:

"13. The Act provides a specific exemption where the distribution of material is
for political, charitable or religious purposes (so as not to inhibit the right to
freedom of expression enshrined in the Human Rights Act 1998)" 39189/item%209%20part%201.pdf

In light of this, it is definitely worth writing back, pointing out that your freedom of expression under the Human Rights Act (Articles 10 + 11) has been breached, and that you have no intention of paying the fine, and look forward to the test case.

And keep us updated.

Bill Stickers

possible way round...

19.03.2008 11:48

how they've interpreted this same new law enforcement in Manchester is that it allows political leafletting, and that does not mean just from political parties. So sorry only just seen this thread (followed link), but it might be worth looking up how it's phrased in Manchester, and using that to argue the case in Leeds etc.


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