Will Poznań finally get an effective tool to combat "advertosis" and aesthetic disorder? On Wednesday, city councilors gave the green light on the matter, despite the fact that the provisions of the so-called landscape resolution are controversial. Better one than none, amendments will be made later, says the City Council, although it had almost six years to prepare the document properly.
Poznan's so-called landscape resolution, which - according to a 2015 law - is supposed to put the issue of advertising and aesthetics of the city in order, is very much behind schedule. Piotr Libicki, the mayor's plenipotentiary for the city's aesthetics (the so-called city visual artist), announced that the document would be ready in 2019, two years after the work began. At the same time he assured that - drawing on the experience of other cities - the resolution was to be free of defects and inaccuracies.
The deadline was not met - this was to be affected by additional comments, consultations and legal caution after the Warsaw resolution was struck down by the Mazovian governor. In the end, it was not until last Wednesday, after reading the third version of the draft, that councilors from the spatial policy and revitalization committee gave a positive opinion (four votes to three with two abstentions). The decision was preceded by a four-hour heated discussion, because - despite so many years of preparation - the project raises doubts.
from one year to five
What are the main points of the resolution (its draft is available here)? The city is divided into four areas. Not only are the detailed provisions different for them, but also the periods of adjustment to the findings of the landscape document. For the "Old Town" area it is one year from the entry into force of the resolution. Here, anyway, there is the least to do, because for several years the provisions of the so-called " cultural park " have been in effect in part of the area (we wrote about it here). For the "center and historic districts" - the period is two years, and for the largest areas: "urbanized" and "natural" - five (although, point-wise, in the case of objects and areas listed in the register of historical monuments - two).
The largest advertising mediums are to be regulated: citylights, billboards, poles and murals, as well as billboards, signs, display windows, so-called "stumbling blocks" and other small items. There is also talk of fences, with plans including a ban on fencing multi-family developments, the elimination of unsightly prefabricated concrete fences and obligatory openwork fences for allotment garden areas.
excerpt from the "toolbox" - guide to the provisions of the landscape resolution
someone playing monopoly?
Several issues raised doubts among the committee and its guests. First, the length of the adjustment periods. Among other things, it was requested that they be shortened to two years, if only because delaying the resolution still gave the owners of the media a longer time to make money than originally planned (over a year ago Libicki announced cutting five years to three, but now there is no trace of this in the resolution). Secondly, it seems questionable to allow advertising on part of the protective nets of facade renovations and - especially - on half the surface of construction site fences.
The third problem is the large-scale admission of advertising media in underground passageways, and in the form of dynamic LCD screens that are a nuisance to the eyes. The fourth issue is the provisions of the resolution, according to which huge advertising screens have already been installed (!) behind the massive glass walls of the railway station, shopping malls and the main entrance to the Poznań International Fair (MTP Group).
A huge screen behind the glass wall of the so-called PKP railway station in Poznan
photo: Jakub Glaz
Finally, last but not least - some councilors are seriously concerned that the resolution will allow a monopoly for one company. Four years ago, the City handed over bus shelters with citylights to the MTP Group (a company in which Poznań until recently had a 100 percent stake). In 2019, the MTP Group signed 10-year agreements with AMS and Ströer. From now on, Ströer has 400 and AMS has 1,086 citylights at bus stops.
Participants in Wednesday's meeting expressed concern about the future of advertising poles (not advertising poles, which are also in the hands of the MTP Group, but traditional poles for sticking small ads and posters), and pointed out that the provisions were not precise enough, and that there was no reaction to "creative" forms of advertising, such as those displayed on facades. Controversy also arose over how to count illegal media throughout the city and the uncollected fees long owed to the city by outdoor companies.
Most of the allegations were dismissed by Piotr Sobczak, director of the Department of Urban Planning and Architecture (ultimately responsible for the draft resolution). He mentioned that there have been no comments so far on shortening the adjustment periods; on the contrary , the owners of the media wanted to extend these deadlines. Therefore, according to Sobczak, it is not possible, for procedural reasons, to make such a change now without extending the work on the resolution. Representatives of the magistrate's office also pointed out that the city would lack the capacity to deal with getting things in order faster than five years. The issues of safety nets and fences around construction sites were also left untouched. The councilors only succeeded in reinstating the provision on banning dynamic LCD screens, which was recently deleted from the resolution.
Sobczak and Libicki also shone with an unintentional touch of humor. They compared the degraded space next to the station illuminated by the aforementioned huge flickering screens to... New York's Times Square or London's Piccadilly Circus (along with their cultural and historical baggage!). Representatives of the magistrate also firmly claimed that the resolution does not allow anyone's monopoly and is not prepared with the needs of MTP in mind. They also rejected the idea of holding off on the vote until the completion of the activities of the Supreme Audit Office, which is currently completing a review of how Poznań managed outdoor advertising in urban space.
Racks of billboards at 27 Grudnia Street in Poznań.
photo: Jakub Głaz
Following the committee's positive approval, the resolution is scheduled to be voted on by the City Council on January 24 this year. There are many indications that it will succeed this time. Officials encouraged councilors to do so, among other things, so that the resolution would significantly speed up the removal of illegal carriers, the number of which the city estimates at nearly 100,000. It estimates because it has not yet conducted a full inventory. This, in turn, makes it difficult to collect fees for years of unlawful use of city land by outdoor companies. The subject of collecting these dues has, by the way, been constantly downplayed by officials, and there are many indications that there will be no financial consequences for the advertising tycoons.
it will improve
Appealing for a vote on the resolution, officials reassured that any errors would be removed by a later amendment, and that the most important thing now is to get the much-delayed document finally working. Therefore, if the councilors vote "in favor" next Tuesday, and the resolution becomes legally binding, we can expect the final effects of the resolution throughout the city only in... 2028, thirteen years after the Parliament passes the so-called Landscape Law. A newly-appointed ten-member team at the magistrate's office is to oversee the implementation of the provisions and control of the actual state of affairs.