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

Everyone knows that you may need planning permission if you’re extending your house, adding a new building to your business complex, or even putting up a large wall. But did you know that you may also need permission for a sign?

It all depends on how big the sign is, and whether it’s an illuminated design or a simple temporary banner. If you want to display an advertisement on the front of your property that’s larger than 0.3sq metres then you might need to apply for advertisement consent. That’s not a particularly large sign, and although you won’t need permission for a ‘Beware of the dog’ sign on your house, if you’re running a business then you may need to check the dimensions of your signage before you put it up.

Illuminated signs of any size may need permission, no matter how small they are.

What if it’s only temporary?

If you’re putting on a local event such as a fair or street party, then you can put up a temporary sign of up to 0.6sq metres without the need for permission. Selling your house? Then make sure your estate agent’s board is no bigger than 0.5sq metres. Temporary signs should only be up for a short time. If they’re up for a prolonged period then you might find yourself on the wrong end of a fine.

Complying with advertisement permission

If you are planning to erect a sign outside your place of business, then you will need to make sure it meets certain criteria. There are five ‘standard conditions’ that all professional advertising boards and business signs must meet.

  • It must be kept clean – if your sign starts to look dirty and tatty then you may be asked to take it down or replace it;
  • 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, or you could end up with a visit from the Health and Safety Executive or a council representative.
  • It must have planning permission from the landowner to be there – this includes the Highways Agency if signage is being displayed at the side of the road on HA land
  • It must not block, or hinder the interpretation of other signs, such as road, rail, waterway or aircraft signs, or make it hazardous to use these forms of transport within the vicinity of the sign;
  • It must be removed if the planning authority withdraws permissions for the sign.

Advertising that doesn’t need permission

Not all advertising needs permission, in fact most of it can be put up without too many issues. There are plenty that can be erected without the need for consent, 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.

Bear in mind, though, that there are still certain conditions that apply to even these types of advertising and signs, including the size of the lettering, what goods or services they advertise, and whether the sign is illuminated. You’ll also probably need permission 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’s always best to double check before you put up any kind of advertising board, sign or even a temporary poster. Talk to a solicitor that specialises in planning permission, go to your local authority to check on local regulations, or start by downloading a copy of ‘Outdoor Advertisements and Signs: A guide for Advertisers’ from the government website.

If you would like any more information in relation to this article then please feel free to contact me via email: or visit my profile.

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