Sign of the times – do you need planning consent for a sign?

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Everyone knows that planning permission may be needed for a house extension, adding a new building to a business complex, or even putting up a large wall. But did you know that you may also need planning consent for an advertisement sign?

It all depends on its dimensions and whether it is an illuminated design or a simple and temporary banner. If, for example, you want to display an advertisement larger than 0.3sq metres on the front a property, you might need to apply to the local planning authority for express advertisement consent. Therefore, it is worth checking the dimensions of your signage before putting it in place. Illuminated signs of any size may need express consent.

What if it’s only temporary?

If you’re putting on a local event, such as a fair or street party, you can erect a temporary sign of up to 0.6sq metres without the need to apply for express advertisement consent. An estate agent’s board should be no bigger than 0.5sq metres. Fines may be imposed for temporary signs that remain in situ for a prolonged period.

Complying with advertisement consents

If you are planning to erect a sign outside your place of business, you must ensure it meets five ‘standard conditions’ pertaining to all professional advertising boards and business signs:

  • It must be kept clean and in good repair– you may be asked to take it down or replace it if it not well-maintained.
  • It must be in a safe condition – damaged signs pose a risk to the public, especially if they are large and heavy. Check regularly that your sign is safe and secure to avoid a visit from the Health and Safety Executive or a council representative
  • The landowner must grant permission for it to be there – this includes the local highway authorities if signage is being displayed at the side of the public highway
  • It must not block or hinder the interpretation of other signs (e.g. road, rail, waterway or aircraft signs) or make it hazardous to use these forms of transport within the vicinity of the sign
  • When a sign is required to be removed then the area must be left in a safe and tidy condition.

Additional conditions may be imposed by the local planning authority where their express consent is required for the advertisement sign.

Advertising that doesn’t need consent

Most advertising does not require express consent from the local planning authority and can be put up without too many issues, including:

  • Advertisements on enclosed land
  • Advertisements on moving vehicles
  • Advertisements which are an integral part of the building's fabric
  • Advertisements displayed on items such as petrol pumps or vending machines
  • Advertisements displayed inside a building.

However, bear in mind that certain other limitations apply to these types of advertising and signs, including the size of the lettering, what goods or services they advertise, and whether it is illuminated. It is likely that you will need express consent for adverts on the gable ends of buildings, some fascia signs and those that project out (where the top edge is more than 4.6m above ground level).

It is always best to double check the legal requirements and limitations before putting up any kind of advertising board, sign or even a temporary poster. Seek advice from a solicitor that specialises in planning law, consult the local planning authority, or start by downloading a copy of ‘Outdoor Advertisements and Signs: A guide for Advertisers’ from the government website.