A Glasgow MSP has called for an end to a tactic which is seeing commercial entities “exploit” a loophole to create “gargantuan” mural adverts on gable ends without receiving prior permission from the council.

It comes after a huge hand-painted advertisement by a nationwide shoe retailer on the side of a tenement building sparked local outcry and concern that Glasgow’s world-renowned gable end mural landscape could be at risk from “creeping commercialisation”. 

The mural, commissioned by Clarks to advertise their desert boots as part of a new brand campaign, appeared on a gable end on Duke Street in the Dennistoun area of the city back in October.

Glasgow Times: The Clarks mural in DennistounThe Clarks mural in Dennistoun (Image: Newsquest)

Dennistoun Conservation Society questioned how Clarks “got the gig” for the mural, while Bafta Scotland award-winning photographer and filmmaker Chris Leslie expressed his worry that it could represent a “slippery slope to massive semi-permanent ads across the city”. 

After being painted over weeks later, a spokesperson for Clarks informed The Herald that the mural “was only a temporary piece of art”.  

In the wake of the outcry, a second huge commercial mural, commissioned by the Royal Bank of Scotland, also appeared on the side of a building in the city before being painted over weeks later. 

The mural was located on the side of the Victor Paris Bathrooms showroom off the Broomielaw – a popular spot which has previously been witness to temporary commercial murals by the likes of Facebook and sportswear brand Adidas.

Commenting on the mural, a spokesperson for RBS said: “Glasgow has a long and proud tradition of creating public art that can be enjoyed by everyone.

“With this in mind, the city felt the right location to install our first Royal Bank of Scotland mural in Scotland, at the heart of Glasgow’s International and Financial Services District.

“As a bank, we have a long history of using art to complement our brands and enrich our customer-facing and working environments, and we hope that the public can enjoy the mural which celebrates our new visual identity and our continued commitment to Scotland.”

Described as a “creative take on outdoor advertising”, most mural advertising involves large-scale eye-catching paintings that are manually applied to city walls by street artists who are hired to design and hand paint the mural onto a building –such as was the case with the Clarks mural in Dennistoun, which was the work of London-based artist Josephine Hicks.

Big brands often favour murals to advertise their products as there are very few rules and regulations when it comes to where and when the adverts can be placed. 

In respect of the Clarks and RBS murals, it is understood that both the artworks were done without permission from Glasgow City Council.

In the wake of the Clarks mural being painted over, a council spokesperson said: “This is not an issue where we’ve had to intervene and it appears the matter has been resolved locally.”

Under council regulations, if a building is not listed or located in a conservation area, planning permission would not normally be required for a commercial mural. 

However, advertising consent would normally be required from the council to display a mural for that purpose, regardless of the location.

It is understood to avoid seeking advertising consent and/or planning permission from Glasgow City Council, businesses are commissioning temporary commercial murals with a lifespan of less than four weeks to effectively “exploit” the “28 day rule” for using land or buildings for an “alternative use” contained within planning regulations for the temporary use of land in The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Scotland) Order.

The provision is often used by event organisers for events such as local fairs and effectively allows for a site be used without formal planning permission. 

Glasgow MSP Paul Sweeney has called for an end to the practice of “giving carte blanche to commercial entities to use Glasgow buildings for whatever they see fit”. 

He said: “Murals have the potential to massively enhance the city’s aesthetic while paying homage to Glasgow’s unique heritage and significant cultural, social or technological achievements. 

“To see the gable end of buildings adorned with gargantuan commercial designs through the exploitation of a loophole in planning laws isn’t right and must be prevented in the future.”