Online Petitions

Petitions - guidance on preparing a paper / online petition

Who can submit a Petition?

Any Bristol resident can submit a petition. There are no age restrictions (children can also submit and sign petitions).

However, for petitions relating to planning applications, petitioners may include non-Bristol residents who have an interest in the application, for example, the applicant, the applicant's agent, the owner of the property etc.

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Online petitions

In Bristol, it is now possible to start and support a petition online. This means that the petition can be made available to a potentially much wider audience, giving you the opportunity to gather more names in support. The e-petitioning system also allows the principal petitioner the opportunity to provide background information, including links to other web sites or photographs, and provides the opportunity for online debate, giving decision makers the chance to see the strength of feeling about the issue.

You can run an online petition at the same time as a paper petition, combining the two before submitting them to the council. Some people prefer this option as they find it easier to have one they can hand around to friends and family.

Two versions of the same e-petitions will not be publicised by the council at the same time.

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What should a Petition contain?

In general, a petition should include a brief title and a short statement covering the subject matter of the petition. The petition should clearly state what action the petitioner wishes the council to take. The petition will be returned to the petitioner for further clarification should this be unclear.

In order to be considered, petitions must also clearly display the following:

  • the name of the petitioner
  • the contact address of the principal petitioner to which all communications concerning the petition should be sent
  • the name and address of any person supporting the petition

Paper petitions should also include a signature.

For e-petitions, although the name and address of any person supporting the petition is required for checking purposes, only the name and area will be displayed.

The information contained in a petition must be submitted in good faith and be decent, honest and respectful.  Also, assertions made in petitions must be factually accurate and will be checked by the council to ensure this is the case.  If factual inaccuracies are found in your e-petition, we will contact you to point these out and give you an opportunity to reconsider the wording of your petition.   

Petitions will be rejected if they are defamatory, frivolous, offensive or factually inaccurate.

E-petitions that do not follow these guidelines will be considered inadmissible. In such cases, petitioners will be informed in writing of the reasons why a petition cannot be accepted.

During politically sensitive periods, such as just before an election, politically controversial material may need to be restricted.

Please note: all e-petitions sent to the council using this system are checked against the terms and conditions of the site and the guidance given on this page.  We aim to review suggested e-petitions within 5 working days.  

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Promoting the e-petition

If you would like to start an e-petition, we can give you some advice about how to promote it and the e-petitioner site is promoted from some other council web sites. However, just with paper petitions, the responsibility for publicising it will lie with you.

If you are promoting your e-petition by email, through newsgroups or discussion boards it is suggested that you only post information about your e-petition to others who are likely to have an interest in the e-petition. It is inappropriate to send messages indiscriminately to multiple mailing lists, individuals or news groups.

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What happens once the signatures have been collected?

The principal petitioner should decide when he or she has collected sufficient names and submit it to the council for consideration.

For e-petitions, the principal petitioner should set a closing date. Once that closing date has been reached, the list of signatures and comments will be printed off and sent to the principal petitioner who should then arrange for it to be submitted as appropriate.

Principal petitioners may wish to set their petition's time limit to coincide with a particular council meeting (eg. full Council or one of the Development Control (Planning) committees). See the Council Meeting Pages. For e-petitions, a week should be allowed between the closing date and the council meeting to give us time to prepare the report.

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What is the process for submitting the Petition?

Petitions can be presented by the principal petitioner or by a councillor on his or her behalf at a meeting of full council. Petitions can also be submitted at meetings (during public forum) or sent to the appropriate department at the council.

If a petitioner wishes to submit the petition at a meeting, he or she must inform the committee by 12 noon the working day before the meeting. See the Council Meeting Pages for contact details.

If a petition relates to a planning application, the petition shall be considered at the meeting of the Development Control Committee, at which the planning application itself is considered (Constitution, Part 4, CMR 9.1a(i)).

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How many names should be on the Petition?

There is no maximum number of names on a petition. On average Bristol City Council would expect the minimum to be 10, however this depends on the issue at hand.

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What issues can a Petition relate to?

Petitions should generally be relevant to some matter in relation to which the council has powers or duties. See the constitution.

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What happens once the Petition is submitted?

Once the petition has been submitted to the council, it will be referred to an appropriate council officer, committee or Councillor for consideration. Feedback will be publicised on the e-petitioner web site once the details are available.

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What Can Petitions Achieve?

Petitions submitted to the council inform debate and can have positive outcomes that lead to change. For example, they can:

  • bring an issue to the attention of the council for them to consider, e.g. traffic calming measures or a new public swimming pool
  • demonstrate strong public approval or disapproval to something that the council is doing

Please note that during election periods, politically controversial issues will be restricted.

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  • e-Petition - a petition which collects names and addresses online, using the e-petitioner system.
  • Principal petitioner - the person who initiates the petition and decides when it is to be submitted.
  • Collecting signatures - an e-petition that is collecting names and addresses online.
  • To be submitted petitions - a petition, which is no longer collecting support online, but has not yet been submitted to the council.
  • Submitted Petitions - a petition that has been submitted to the council and which they are currently considering.
  • Closed petitions - a petition that has been submitted to the council, been considered and reached the point where no further action will be taken.
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