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  6. Cigarette bin planning row in conservation area

Cigarette bin planning row in conservation area

Westminster City Council has decided to go to court over a number of branded cigarette bins located in a conservation area which it has argued require planning permission.

At issue are 21 cigarette bins, all branded with the name of Europe’s biggest cab company, Addison Lee. It has supplied some 16,000 free bins for smokers outside pubs and restaurants in the capital.

The planning authority has claimed that the bins breach planning regulations relating to advertising in designated locations like conservation areas. The bins in question are at seven different locations in the Marylebone Conservation Area.

Rosemarie MacQueen, the council’s strategic director for the built environment, said: “We have strict rules on advertising to prevent Westminster being overrun with a plethora of adverts and these apply to everyone – including Addison Lee.”

She added:  “We’re not against any particular type of advertising, and the merits of the advertising or the purpose of the bins is irrelevant. We will always be fair and flexible as far as possible, but we cannot have any one commercial organisation being the sole arbiter in deciding what, how and where it can advertise.”

Addison Lee chairman John Griffin said in a statement: "Adbins has been operating since 2007 and now provides around 16,000 cigarette bins to thousands of businesses across London. Since the smoking ban came into effect in 2007, business owners have been liable to be charged fines should they not provide receptacles for litter  - specifically including cigarette butts – of up to £2,500.

“So now, more than three years after we started providing these bins at zero cost to businesses in London, somebody at Westminster Council with too much time on their hands has decided to persecute us for helping to reduce the 2,700 tonnes of cigarette butts dropped in London streets each year. Westminster argues that we need planning permission for the bins, but whenever we put the bin up, we get the permission of the restaurant. If the restaurant needs planning permission, that is a matter for them.

“Westminster Council themselves spend at least £32m a year on waste collection, street cleaning and issuing press releases announcing a crackdown on smoking litter. Now they are wasting taxpayers’ money to take us to court in this perverse action when they should be thanking us for doing our bit to keep the streets tidy at no cost to anyone but ourselves.”

The test-case is scheduled to be heard by City of Westminster Magistrates on 29 September. 

Roger Milne

19 August 2010