That Adidas ad and commercial appropriation of Hackney Marsh

This giant banner advert for Adidas football boots appeared without warning in front of the Hackney Marshes Centre a couple of weeks ago with zero regard for the landscape or its statutory and planning policy protections.

Five years ago Hackney Council's planning consultants Firstplan were proud of overcoming the 'restrictive policy designation' of Metropolitan Open Land and getting planning consent for the ridiculously oversized HMC, now doubling as commercial advertising site.

With another intrusive pavilion and sprawling car park planned for North Marsh, this lyrical post A Song of Open Space explains why this creeping commandeering and urbanising of our open green space must be challenged wherever it appears.

The complaint below has been sent to the Council itemising its failings.

7 October 2014


Dear London Borough of Hackney

This complaint concerns the commercial display of the 38m x 7.5m Adidas advertisement currently mounted on a scaffolding structure erected for the purpose, adjacent to the Hackney Marshes Centre facing the open space of Hackney Marsh Common.

It is an urban feature overbearing in scale and incongruous in design and location, visually damaging to the landscape of open grassland surrounded by trees which it dominates.

It has been imposed without consultation or warning on the users of Hackney Marsh who value the common for its openness and contrast to its urban surroundings, and its impact is not lessened by the claim that it is temporary. 


Unlawfulness of construction on Common Land​

​The scaffolding and wrap forms an inclosure preventing access to the circa 75 square metres of the ​Common on which it stands. It has been erected without Planning Inspectorate consent and would therefore appear to be unlawful under Section 38 of the Commons Act 2006.

It follows that the Council were complicit in entering into a licence agreement for the use of the site for an unlawful purpose.

Maladministration of ​Advertising Consent

The advertisement is clearly harmful to visual amenity and inappropriate in its setting. On the evidence of the Officer's Report for the application (2014/2740) the assessment of impact on amenity was flawed and the decision to grant consent was not properly made for the following reasons:

  • It describes the advertisement covering the 'front elevation' of the building,​ and the two photos included in the report described as 'site frontage' show the main entrance side of the building adjoining the car park.
    However the advertisement has been erected on the opposite (rear) side of the building, facing the green space of Hackney Marsh where its harm to visual amenity is far greater.

    So it seems the decision was based on a failure to understand on which side of the building it was to be located.
  • The dimensions on which the officer based his decision is stated in the report as 'approximately 28m width, 4m height and 1.7m depth'. This is less than half the area stated on the application form and as actually constructed (37.828m width, 7.418m height, 3.256m depth)
  • ​There i​s no evidence of a considered​ assessment of impact on visual amenity. The report states that it was "​acceptable"​ in terms of its "​size, scale, location and visual amenity"​

    However the planning officer was apparently unaware of its correct size, location or its appearance (the image and text to be displayed was not submitted with the application).  
  • Harm to visual amenity was disregarded just because the installation was temporary (“Given the advert will only be erected for a four week period, it will not detract from the character of the Hackney Marsh area on a permanent basis”). It is generally the case that individual adverts are displayed for a limited period, this does not mitigate harm to amenity or obviate its proper consideration.
  •  As an advertisement on Council property from which the Council is deriving financial benefit, and on a site never previously used for the purpose, advertising consent should be considered far more carefully and not simply rubber stamped.
  • There was no local consultation or warning of the proposal and Hackney Marshes User Group were not notified​.


​For the reasons above the installation should be removed immediately.

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