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Licences and permits

Free printed material permit

  • Areas where distribution is allowed

    If you want to distribute any type of printed material in certain areas of Belfast, you must have a permit from us.

    Areas of the city are designated as consent areas or prohibited areas. In consent areas, distribution of free printed material is allowed with a permit. In prohibited areas, we do not allow distribution of free printed materials.

  • Why designate areas?

    Certain parts of the city experience persistent leafleting. It's a nuisance to the public and one of the main contributing factors behind litter in the city. We spend £12.8 million cleaning our streets and cleaning leafleted areas requires additional resources. 

  • What is free printed material?

    It includes items such as:

    • leaflets
    • balloons
    • stickers
    • newspapers
    • catalogues
    • brochures
    • carrier bags
    • wristbands
    • clothing
  • Types of permit

    There are two types of permit:

    • annual permit
    • temporary permit

    Permits are not transferable between consent areas. If you want to distribute material in the City Centre and University consent areas you must make two separate applications.

    Annual permit

    The annual permit is available in the City Centre consent area only.

    You can apply for either stationary annual permit or a roaming annual permit.

    A stationary annual permit restricts the distributor to a particular street. You can apply for a maximum of 4 distributor badges. Each badge costs £450.

    A roaming annual permit allows a maximum of two distributors to distribute free printed matter in any street, subject to some restrictions during busy periods. Each distributor badge costs £450.

    Temporary permit

    A temporary permit allows a maximum of two distributors to give out free printed matter subject to certain restrictions.

    There are two types of temporary permits:

    • one to three days (£75)
    • one to seven days (£125)

    If we decide to issue a permit, it may carry certain limitations:

    • the material that can be distributed
    • the times or dates when it can be distributed
    • the area of the designated land where it can be distributed
    • a particular type of distribution.
  • How to apply for a permit

    Apply online for a permit

    Apply for a temporary permit online

    Apply for an annual permit online

    When we have received your application, we will contact you to take payment.

    We will normally decide on permit applications within 10 working days of receipt of a completed application form, along with the relevant fee.

    Apply by post for a permit

    To request an application form for either a temporary or annual permit to distribute free printed matter, email

    Send this form with your chosen method of payment to:

    The Enforcement Team,
    Free Printed Material
    City and Neighbourhood Services Department,
    Cecil Ward Building,
    5th Floor, 4-10 Linenhall Street,
    BT2 8BP

    If your application is successful you will receive:

    • A copy of your permit and permit conditions
    • Certificate of permit
    • The permit badges
    • Armband holders for badges
    • A template for the permit holders' log
    • Maps of prohibited streets
  • Consent areas

    The two areas that have been designated as consent areas are Belfast City Centre and the University area. Anyone wanting to distribute free printed materials in these areas must apply to us for a permit.

    (1) Belfast City Centre - bounded by and including all roadway of:

    • Albert Square
    • Bedford Street
    • Castle Street
    • College Avenue
    • Donegall Quay
    • Dublin Road to Shaftesbury Square
    • East Bridge Street to Cromac Square
    • Great Victoria Street
    • Fisherwick Place
    • Ormeau Avenue
    • Oxford Street
    • Royal Avenue
    • Shaftesbury Square
    • Waring Street
    • York Street to Dunbar Link

    (2) University area - bounded by and including all roadway of:

    • Botanic Gardens
    • Botanic Avenue to Bradbury Place
    • Cameron Street
    • Lisburn Road to College Gardens
    • Malone Road to Chlorine Gardens
    • Ormeau Road to McClure Street
    • Stranmillis Road
    • Sandymount Street to Ridgeway Street
    • Stranmillis Embankment
    • St. Ives Garden
    • University Road
  • Prohibited areas

    There are some prohibited areas where we will not allow anyone to distribute free printed material. These are:

    • City Hall grounds
    • Donegall Square (North, South, East and West)
    • Castle Lane
    • Corn Market
    • Castle Arcade
    • William Street South
    • Arthur Square, Arthur Street and Arthur Place
    • Calendar Street
    • Fountain Street and Fountain Lane
    • Ann Street
    • University Road (within 50 metres of entrance to Botanic Gardens)
    • Stranmillis Road (within 50 metres of entrance to Botanic Gardens)
    • Botanic Gardens
    • Botanic Court
  • Exemptions

    Materials benefiting statutory agencies delivering health and wellbeing, charities, political purposes or religious beliefs are exempt from the order.

  • Enforcement

    If we find anyone distributing printed materials in designated areas, without a permit, we can fine or prosecute them. 

    The fine is £80 which must be paid within 14 days. If it is paid within 10 days it will be reduced to £60. If the fine is not paid within 14 days, we can prosecute the offender and they could be fined up to £2,500.

    If a person is distributing material for another person, business, or organisation, then we can fine the person, business or organisation responsible for the printed material, as well as the person physically distributing the materials.

    We will enforce the permit conditions and any contravention of these conditions may result in the consent being revoked.

  • Other information

    Any distribution of free printed material involving food or beverages may require you to apply for a temporary street trading licence in addition to a permit to distribute free printed material. 

    Apply for a temporary street trading licence

    The council cannot give permission for the placing of structures in the road such as tables or gazebos for use during any distribution. This is the responsibility of DfI Roads who act as the roads authority for Northern Ireland.

  • Contact us

    If you have any enquiries about your application, call us on 028 9027 0254 or write to:

    Belfast City Council
    Cleansing Services (Free printed matter)
    Ground Floor
    Cecil Ward Building
    4-10 Linenhall Street
    BT2 8BP

Contact us

The Enforcement Team, Free Printed Material City and Neighbourhood Services Department, Cecil Ward Building, 5th Floor, 4-10 Linenhall Street, Belfast, BT2 8BP

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