Cape Town to get new bylaw for outdoor advertising

The City of Cape Town is to introduce a new outdoor advertising bylaw to control all outdoor advertising, such as shop signs, posters and billboards.

According to Alderman Brian Watkyns, Chairperson of the Planning and Environment Portfolio Committee (Pepco), the new bylaw will strike a balance between outdoor advertising opportunities, economic growth and Cape Town’s unique environmental and cultural heritage assets.

In an attempt to give all interested parties another opportunity to comment on the final draft of the bylaw, Pepco has requested the relevant City department to arrange an open day where Pepco will have the opportunity to discuss the outcome before it goes to Council for approval.

The bylaw is the product of several years of wide consultation with all the sectors that may be affected. In 1999, the Cape High Court ordered the municipality to amend its outdoor advertising bylaw to allow third-party advertising, but also restrict such advertisers to protect Cape Town’s rich environment. Accordingly, a bylaw was put in place in Cape Town in 2000 – and extended metro-wide in 2001 – and this has now been reworked and updated.

“Although the City has allowed third-party advertising, the new bylaw will provide greater clarity on this issue. Besides allowing for greater flexibility, the bylaw also balances the freedom of expression with the conservation of the metropole’s rich natural and cultural heritage,” says Watkyns.

“Recent radio talk shows in Cape Town have highlighted the increasing pressure being placed on Cape Town’s unique character by illegal signage. We want to arrest this trend.

“One of Cape Town’s strongest wealth creators is its tourism industry. People flock to our city because of its natural beauty and historical cultural heritage. The City needs to protect this beauty, which generates income and stimulates job creation in our local economy.

“The new bylaw has been discussed with all relevant sectors and we have received some 4 000 comments, which have all been considered over a series of 25 working sessions. The inputs came from community organisations, individuals, ratepayers’ groups, industry representatives and non-profit bodies, and the City is extremely grateful for all the comments submitted.

“The outcome of the working sessions has been summarised in a ‘Public Comments and Response’ document. The evaluation of these comments will be incorporated in the final version to be considered by the City.”

The Outdoor Advertising and Signage Bylaw defines the areas of maximum control, such as scenic and natural areas, rural areas and sensitive urban conservation areas such as the Long Street architectural heritage area. Other defined areas include urban commercial areas of partial control and minimum control, such as industrial areas.

The types of signs that are not regulated by the bylaw include road traffic signs, official election posters, aircraft signs and indoor signs.

Back-lit billboards and theatre posters will now be more easily allowed. Newspapers must register and can apply for headline posters to be displayed in fixed frames.

Along with this latitude, there is clearer control of potential negative impacts in sensitive environmental and heritage precincts and there are clear opportunities for communities and volunteers to participate.

The new bylaw maintains the prohibition on sky signs in the central business district, on towers, silos, pylons and gantries. Freestanding super billboards bigger than 36m will not be allowed.

“This bylaw was created to permit outdoor advertising in a controlled manner and to ensure that Cape Town retains its unique character and protects the broader public interest. Damage to public property is also a problem. Each time an event organiser pastes an illegal poster on traffic control boxes or electricity boxes, municipal workers or contractors have to remove it. An electricity box which malfunctions because of a poster blocking its air vents can cost up to R52 000 to repair,” says Watkyns.

The City is in the process of appointing an additional 13 environmental control officers to enforce the bylaw, assisted by the metro police, law enforcement and traffic services. The new bylaw contains stricter enforcement provisions and penalties.

The final draft of the bylaw, a summary presentation and a table of the Public Comments and Response document are on the Environmental Resource Management website – go to and click on “What’s new”.

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