Mug off says council – and don’t even think of comparing it to Banksy! 

Ely Mug, ElyWednesday 06 October 2021. Picture by Terry Harris.

Ely Mug , Ely Wednesday 06 October 2021. - Credit: Terry Harris

The High Flyer has been refused permission for a ‘giant mug’ outside their pub despite a petition to keep it signed by more than 1,100 people.  

East Cambridgeshire District Council says there is no doubt “that the arrival of a giant mug attached to a building within the conservation area has attracted interest”. 

But in a ‘judgement’ handed down by planners the pub owners were told a “giant polystyrene structure” is not something they want to see in the city.  

The council says the pictorial image which forms part of the advert has been reproduced from John Tenniel’s 1865 illustrations for Alice in Wonderland. 

“And therefore, to draw an analogy with original street art such as the works of ‘Banksy’ is misplaced,” says the council. 

“Public art should be unique, ideally created by an artist in response to a specific site and not, as in this case, generic marketing material designed to attract customers into a coffee shop.” 

It adds: “The presence of a giant mug on the side of a building has drawn attention, however, it is unlikely that visitors would necessarily be attracted to Ely for this sole purpose. 

Giant cuppa outside High Flyer with the enforcement notice now showing around the bottom.

Giant cuppa outside High Flyer with the enforcement notice that was put on by council officers around the bottom. The cuppa must go, the council has now decided - Credit: Ely Standard Reader

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“Therefore, to be labelled as a tourist attraction is unfounded and is not justification to support the advertisement when considering amenity and public safety. 

“As with any other advertising gimmicks once this has been viewed, it is doubtful whether visitors would need to see it again.” 

The retrospective application for the Newnham Street pub summarises the thoughts of many in support and of those against it.  

"Keep Ely Weird is a concept that this mug feeds into,” was how one regards it. 

Others called it “much loved” “classy and attractive” “doesn’t hinder vision at the junction” and “Ely is not just an old and historical city, but young, open-minded, diverse, creative and artistic”. 

The team at the High Flyer in Ely

The team at the High Flyer in Ely - Credit: HIGH FLYER ELY

Those against describe it as “inappropriate in size and type” “does not enhance the building or area in any way” and if permission is given “where would the line be drawn for other inappropriate advertising hoardings”. 

No ward district councillors commented on the application and the City of Ely Council and the county highways authority said they had no problem with it. 

Where the cuppa began, in 2014.

Where the cuppa began, in 2014. Network Rail, First Capital Connect and Solarcentury surprised passengers arriving at Blackfriars station this morning with a free cuppa drawn from Britain’s biggest tea cup to celebrate the launch of the world’s largest solar bridge. - Credit: Network Rail

A highways officer told the council: “On balance, I do not consider this to be an unreasonable distraction beyond many others that might be found in environments such as this. 

“I would not therefore look to object on this basis.”  

The council’s conservation officer objected, saying that “whilst novelty and conspicuousness might be advantages in purely advertising terms, that is not the only consideration in play.  

Giant cuppa outside High Flyer, Ely, when it was first delivered

Giant cuppa outside High Flyer, Ely, when it was first delivered - Credit: Ely Standard reader

“There is also an expectation that the character and harmony of the public realm is maintained, and in conservation areas that extends to a legal duty.  

“By that measure the structure is an incongruous and out-of-scale addition which neither preserves nor enhances the Ely conservation area”.  

Planners say the structure was erected without consent “and this could lead the way for further incursions should planning permission be granted”. 

The council also points to an appeal relating to a banner advertisement at 26 St Mary’s Street, Ely in 2019. 

The planning inspector stated that “advertisements should only be subject to control in the interests of amenity and public safety.

The High Flyer in Ely has reopened with a new alfresco dining area following a makeover. 

The High Flyer in Ely has reopened with a new alfresco dining area following a makeover. - Credit: HIGH FLYER ELY

“There is no indication in the regulations that other considerations either in favour of or against proposals can be taken into account”.  

The council says this further supports their view that despite the seeming popularity of the advertisement “this does not meet with legislative requirements”.  

The council accepts that the proposed signage and symbols do not cause a distraction to drivers’ attention.  

But, says the council, they do represent “an unsympathetic and incongruous addition to the building and street scene”. 

And due to the size of the display “results in a negative impact on the visual amenities of the street scene, that neither enhances nor preserves the special character of the City of Ely Conservation Area, as required by the regulations”. 

The application was refused.