Whatever the nature of a proposed development, be it a wind farm, incinerator or a new housing scheme, it can be understandably a sensitive subject for the individuals or community who’ll be affected by it. That’s why ads outlining the scope and scale of such projects – to gain support and allay fears - often prompt complaints.

Similarly, ads by protesters that are designed to counter the arguments for a planned development are just as likely to spark the ire of developers.

There are pros and cons to any proposal which both advertisers and opposition groups are allowed to present, but if the arguments in the ad are put forward in a misleading way then it’ll be a concern for us.

Businesses behind a development often use ads to present the benefits of their work to members of the public, particularly those who may be directly affected by it. There is nothing wrong with this, as long as the ads stick to the rules. Advertisers are, for instance, allowed to claim that a new development could provide ‘100 new jobs’, ‘increased footfall to your high street’ or ‘extra value to your home’ – but they need to have evidence to back up their claims.

Similarly, advertisers are allowed to use images to give an idea of how a development might look, but they should be careful not to mislead the public as to the reality of the actual development. For example an artist’s impression that implies the development is much smaller than it actually is or an image of a play area that won’t be included in the final plans, are likely to be a problem.

Of course, some plans are subject to modification and in those instances where an advertiser is unable to guarantee that all elements of the proposal will be included, they should be upfront. In a recent ruling we suggested the inclusion of text stating ‘planned to include’.

But the shoe is sometimes on the other foot, and sometimes we have to make judgements on ads by protest groups. For example, last year we banned a leaflet from a campaign group opposing a local wind farm development, because the image they’d used implied the proposed turbines would be closer to a local landmark than they actually were. Because the site of the proposed development was in fact a reasonable distance from the landmark we ruled that the ad was misleading.

We’re not here to prevent groups from presenting their own arguments, but we do require them to abide by the same Advertising Codes that they’d expect businesses to comply with.

Advertisers on either side of the argument should ensure the claims they make are accurate and aren’t misleading. We’re here to take action against those that don’t so that we can all have confidence in the information we’re presented with.

No To Tibberchindy Windfarm – 1 May 2013 (Upheld)

Dozen for Doven – 28 March 2012 (Upheld)

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