Schedule 3A to the Environmental Protection Act 1990 enables the City Council to designate highways and council owned land where the distribution of free printed matter is permitted only with the prior consent of the Council.

The purpose of this legislation is to help control the litter problem created by the distribution of free printed matter which is often quickly discarded by persons to whom it is given.

For the purposes of the Act, "free printed matter" includes any newspaper, document, card, leaflet, pamphlet, sticker or other literature for which no charge is made to the recipient.

"Distribute" means give it to or to offer or make available, and includes placing or affixing free literature to vehicles. It does not include putting it inside a building or letterbox.

The legislation does not apply to the distribution of free literature:

  • by or on behalf of a charity within the meaning of the Charities Act 1993 where that literature relates to or is for the benefit of that charity.
  • where the distribution is for political purposes
  • by a person who distributes the literature by delivering it into a building or letterbox
  • where the distribution is for the purposes of a religion or belief.

Designated streets and places

The City Council has designated the land and highways listed in the link below where the prior consent of the Council is required for the distribution of "free printed matter". If free literature is to be distributed in a street or place not in the list then no consent is required.

Please note that the City Council will not grant a consent to distribute free printed matter in any Council maintained off-street car park.

Application for consent to distribute free printed matter

Please apply on the prescribed application form. The Council must receive the form not less than seven days before the required date for the distribution of the free printed matter.

Applications can be made to:

Licensing Service
Directorate of Operations and Regulatory Services
Newcastle City Council
Newington Road East
Newcastle upon Tyne

When making an application you must specify the streets where you wish to distribute the free printed matter and the date you wish to start distributing the free literature.

The consent is subject to payment of a fee which is based on the number of persons to be used to distribute the free literature at any one time. eg. an organisation may have 20 people available to distribute free printed matter, but may only use a maximum of 10 of those distributors at any one time. The fee in that case will be 10 x the prescribed amount detailed on the application form.

The fee must accompany the application form. Cheques should be made payable to "Newcastle City Council".

Consents will be subject to conditions which may restrict the time or places where free printed matter may be distributed. All consents will also be subject to the following standard conditions.

  • All staff engaged in the distribution of free printed matter shall wear an authorisation badge issued by the City Council bearing the number of the consent and showing the name and address of the consent holder so that it is clearly visible.
  • The above authorisation shall be produced on demand to an authorised officer of the Council or a Police Constable.
  • No free printed matter shall be left unattended by staff for the general public to take at their discretion.
  • All places in which free printed matter has been distributed are to be cleansed forthwith by the consent holder to a radius of 50 metres from the distribution point of any litter caused by the distribution of the said literature.
  • The free printed matter must bear the name and address of the consent holder who is responsible for its distribution.
  • Applications for consent must be made not less than seven days before the required date for the distribution of free printed matter.
  • Consents will be subject to the payment of a fee based on the number of distributors per application.

Right to appeal

There is a right of appeal to the Magistrates Court against the refusal to issue a consent, against any conditions attached to a consent or the revocation of a consent.

Will Tacit Consent apply?

Yes. This means that you will be able to act as though your application is granted if you have not heard by the end of the target completion period which is 28 days from the date of submission of all correct and relevant information.


It is an offence to distribute free printed matter or cause the distribution of free printed matter in any designated street or place without a consent from the City Council to do so. Offenders are liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale (currently £2,500).

An authorised City Council officer may seize any free printed matter from a person found distributing it in a designated place without the consent of the Council.

Copies of the legislation mentioned on this page can be purchased from Her Majesty's Stationery Office or can be accessed at OPSI.

Please note: This information has no legal force and is not an authoritative interpretation of the law, which is a matter for the Courts. It is intended to help businesses to understand in general terms, the main features of the legislation. The information is not a substitute for the legislation and you should refer to the text of the legislation for a full statement of legal requirements and obligations. Where appropriate, you should seek your own independent legal advice.

For further information, please contact the Licensing Service, Directorate of Operations and Regulatory Services, City of Newcastle upon Tyne, Newington Road East, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE6 5BD. Phone: 0191 2783864


Page last updated: 
30 August 2018
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