The display of all outdoor signs and advertisements is governed by the provisions of the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) Regulations 1992. These regulations can be complex and individuals are advised to seek the advice of the local authority planning department before commissioning and setting up any signage.

If a property is a listed building, listed building consent will always be required before a sign is erected.

Summary of the regulations

Fully illuminated signs
Always require express consent from the planning authority (although this is not normally the case if the sign is displayed inside a window, rather than on the wall or doorway outside.

Partially illuminated signs
(e.g. where letters only, and not the background, are illuminated) may not require express consent.

Non-illuminated signs
Can normally be displayed with deemed consent if they are fixed to the building, although they are limitations placed on the height of the sign and on the size of any characters or symbols on it.

Signs at the entrance to premises
Individuals can normally put a non-illuminated sign by the gate, driveway or within the grounds of the establishment with deemed consent (subject to limitations on overall size, height and size of characters or symbols).

Signs in advance of premises
If individuals wish to put up directional signs by the side of the roads, approaching the establishment, e.g. in a field overlooking the road (with the landowner’s permission, of course), express consent from the planning authority must be sought.

White on brown tourism signs
White on brown signs for tourist facilities were first introduced in the 1980s. Hotels, guesthouses and bed and breakfasts can apply for these signs, but in practice, accommodation establishments have been less successful with their applications than tourist attractions.

The first step is to contact the local authority highways department to seek advice about procedures, local policy and the cost of such signs. Each local highways authority will have its own guidelines that balance local environment and road safety interests with those of the tourism industry.

The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) provides national guidance to local authorities on the consideration of applications for white on brown signs.

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