One of the most commonly overlooked areas of general planning considerations is often advertisement consent.  We see it very commonly with both urban and rural businesses wishing to erect signage to advertise their services, or location, and often such signage will need express consent.   This article does not attempt to give detail on all elements (given that there are three categories of advertisement consent and overall, there is a lot to consider) but we have attempted to give a general introduction to this area of planning control with particular emphasis on those that require express consent of the Local Planning Authority (LPA).

Advertisements can be a surprisingly complex area which is subject to a separate consent process within the planning system.   This is set out within the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) (England) Regulations 2007 (the Regulations).   Planning permission is not needed in addition to advertisement consent.  Advertisements can take many, many shapes and forms from freestanding signage of all sizes, paper and paste billboards to illuminated signage and bollard signage.  For planning purposes, ‘advertisement’ is defined in section 336(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended) as:

“any word, letter, model, sign, placard, board, notice, awning, blind, device or representation, whether illuminated or not, in the nature of, and employed wholly or partly for the purposes of, advertisement, announcement or direction, and (without prejudice to the previous provisions of this definition) includes any hoarding or similar structure used or designed, or adapted for use and anything else principally used, or designed or adapted principally for use, for the display of advertisements.”

If a proposed advertisement does not fall into one of the Classes in Schedule 1 or Schedule 3 of the Regulations, consent must be applied for and obtained from the LPA (referred to as express consent in the Regulations).  Schedule 3, for example, allows estate agency boards relating to an article for sale or advertisements displayed on a site that has been used continually for the preceding ten years for the display of advertisements without express consent.

If express consent is required submission of the completed application form, a scaled plan which identifies the location of the site, and the proposed position of the advertisement must be provided in an application for consent.  An application must confirm whether the site owner and everyone with an interest in the site have given their permission to display an advertisement.  The decision must be given in eight weeks unless the applicant agrees in writing to a longer period.

Once an application is live advertisements should only be considered in the context of amenity and public safety.  There is no statutory requirement for an LPA to publicise applications for advertisement consent, it should consider whether any application would affect the amenity of neighbours. Where it would affect them, it is good practice for the views of neighbours to be sought before determining an application and in our experience where proposals are near residential properties LPA’s generally do notify them.

Amenity is not specifically defined but can include visual amenity and factors relevant to amenity include the general characteristics of the locality, including the presence of any feature of historic, architectural, cultural or similar interest.  This means that heritage assets, listed buildings and impact upon them can, for example, be a consideration.  The same proposal could quite literally be acceptable in one location but not another as a result of setting and assessment as to amenity.  Public safety is not confined to road safety and includes all of the considerations which are relevant to the safe use and operation of any form of traffic or transport on land (including the safety of pedestrians), over water or in the air.

In the case of signage to be sited off highway land, directing potential customers to businesses or tourist attractions in scenically attractive rural areas, LPAs are encouraged by National Guidance, to keep in mind that appropriate sign posting can benefit the local economy and reflect this through the decision-making process.  If consent for such signs has to be refused on amenity or public safety grounds, efforts should be made, where practicable, to suggest an alternative site or sign and to co-operate with the applicant in devising a sign posting scheme which is acceptable in the locality.  This is key for rural diversification schemes which often need such signage in more remote areas to both advertise and direct customers.

All advertisements, whether they require express consent or not, are subject to standard conditions. If a local planning authority decides to impose additional conditions, these must be supported by specific and relevant planning reasons.  Consent usually lasts for five years but a local planning authority has discretion and can grant consent for a longer or shorter period. Unless the local planning authority has imposed a condition that an advertisement with express consent must be removed after the consent expires, it may normally continue to be displayed without submitting any further application.

If an application is refused, then there is a right of appeal to the Secretary of State (The Planning Inspectorate) which must generally be lodged within eight weeks of the LPA’s decision.

We have had involvement, in varying capacities, with advertisement consents and these include signage for car parks, farm diversification schemes as well as larger billboard style advertisements.   If you have any signage that you wish to put up or are unsure of anything relating to signage and consents – contact us via the contact page where you can also book a 15-minute mini chat for an initial discussion as to your proposals.  Please be advise that due to the complex nature of this work the more information you can give us the better we can advise you!