Adverts & Signs

Express consent

If an advertisement you want to display is not excluded from control, and does not benefit from any of the provisions for deemed consent, you need the planning authority's express consent before you can display it. Some frequently displayed types of advertisement for which you need the planning authority's consent are:

  • virtually all posters
  • some illuminated signs
  • fascia signs and projecting signs on shop-fronts or business premises where the top edge of the sign is more than 4.6 metres above ground level

To obtain consent to put up an advertisement or sign you will need to apply to Surrey Heath Borough Council. You can obtain the application form from the Council's planning department or click here. In addition to the completed application form, illustrative plans and drawings are required; and you will have to pay the appropriate charge for the advertisement application. The tariff of charges is related to the type of advertisement involved in the application.

Illegal Trailer Advertising

The display of advertisement on motor vehicle trailers does not benefit from deemed advertisement consent. However, whilst the vehicle is moving no consent is required. Any displays undertaken whilst the vehicle is static either on private land or on the highway is illegal advertisement.

The continued display of any advertisement without consent will result in the consideration for prosecution in the Magistrate's Court. The maximum fine on conviction of an offence is at currently level 3, with an additional daily fine of one-tenth of the maximum penalty on conviction of a continuing offence.

Miscellaneous temporary advertisement

An advertisement relating to the sale or letting, for residential, agricultural, industrial or commercial use or for development for such use of the land or premises on which it is displayed.

  • Not more than one such advertisement, consisting of a single board or two conjoined boards is permitted.
  • Where more than one such advertisement is displayed, the first to be displayed shall be taken to be permitted.
  • No advertisement may be displayed indicating that land or premises have been sold or let , other than by the addition to an existing advertisement of a statement that a sale or letting has been agreed or that the land or premises have been sold or let subject to contract.
  • Any such advertisement shall be removed within 14 days after the sale is completion or tenancy is granted.

No such advertisement may exceed in area:

  • Where advertisement relates to residential use or development, 0.5 square metres, in case of conjoined boards together 0.6 square metres in aggregate.
  • Where the advertisement relates to any other use or development 2 square metre in case of conjoined boards 2.3 square metres in aggregate.
  • Where the advertisement is displayed on a building the maximum projection permitted from the face of the building is 1metre.

No illuminated advertisement is permitted.

No character or symbol on the advertisement may be more than 0.75metre in height or 0.3metre in an area of special control

No part of the advertisement may be higher above ground level than 4.6metre or 3.6 metre in an area of special control or in the case of a sale or letting of part only building the lowest level of that part of the building on which is reasonably practicable.

How your application for consent is decided

Your application for consent to display an advertisement will usually be decided by the Executive Head - Regulatory. In deciding whether to approve your application, the planning authority may consider only two issues; these are described in the rules as the interests of amenity and public safety.

What do 'amenity' and 'public safety' mean?

The terms 'amenity' and 'public safety' are not defined in detail in the advertisement control rules, although advice on these terms is given in CLG Circular 03/2007. Surrey Heath Borough Council (and the Secretary of State on appeal) must interpret what is meant by these expressions as they apply in particular cases. In practice, 'amenity' is usually understood to mean the effect upon visual amenity in the immediate neighbourhood of displaying the advertisement, or using an advertisement site, where passers-by, or people living there, will be aware of the advertisement. So in assessing amenity, Surrey Heath Borough Council will always consider the local characteristics of the neighbourhood. For example, if your advertisement will be displayed in a locality where there are important scenic, historic, architectural or cultural features, Surrey Heath Borough Council will consider whether it is in scale and in keeping with these features. This might mean that Surrey Heath Borough Council would refuse consent for a large poster-hoarding which would visually dominate a group of 'listed' buildings. But where there are large buildings and main highways, for example in an industrial or commercial area Surrey Heath Borough Council may grant consent for large advertisements which would not adversely affect visual amenity in the neighbourhood of the site.

If you are in doubt whether an advertisement needing specific consent will be acceptable on grounds of amenity, you should speak to a Duty Planning Officer before you submit an application. Among amenity considerations Surrey Heath Borough Council must not include the content or subject-matter of an advertisement, nor whether an advertisement would offend public decency, or moral values. These factors are controlled by a voluntary 'code of conduct' supervised by the Advertising Standards Authority.

'Public safety' means 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. So, for this purpose, Surrey Heath Borough Council must assess the likely effects of your advertisement in relation to such matters as the behaviour of driver, possible confusion with any traffic sign or signal, or possible interference with a navigational light or aerial beacon. But Surrey Heath Borough Council will assume that all advertisements are intended to attract people's attention, so that the advertisement you want to display would not automatically be regarded as a distraction to passers-by in vehicles or on foot. What matters is whether your advertisement, or the spot where you propose to site it, will be so distracting or so confusing that it creates a hazard for, or endangers, people who are taking reasonable care for their own and others' safety. When they are considering 'public safety' factors for your advertisement, Surrey Heath Borough Council will normally consult other relevant bodies, for example the highway authority if your advertisement is alongside a major road.

What happens after the authority's decision?

If Surrey Heath Borough Council grant consent for the display of your advertisement, the consent usually lasts for five years. But Surrey Heath Borough Council may grant consent for a longer or shorter period than five years; so it is worth checking, in the notification of their decision, for how long the consent will last. However, unless Surrey Heath Borough Council have imposed a condition that your advertisement must be removed after the consent expires, you may continue to display it without making any further application, although Surrey Heath Borough Council may still take 'discontinuance action' against it.

What happens if the planning authority refuse consent?

If Surrey Heath Borough Council refuse consent for your advertisement, or impose a condition on the consent with which you are dissatisfied (for example, the hours for illuminating a shop fascia sign are very strictly limited), you have a right to appeal against the decision to the Secretary of State (as explained in the following paragraph).You also have a right to appeal to the Secretary of State if Surrey Heath Borough Council fail to give a decision within eight weeks of the date of your advertisement application, or within any period longer than eight weeks which you and Surrey Heath Borough Council may have agreed. But you have no right to appeal if Surrey Heath Borough Council tell you that it has treated your application as withdrawn because it is similar, in all relevant respects, to one on the same site which has been refused by the Secretary of State on appeal within the preceding two years.

How and when you can appeal to the Secretary of State

If you wish to appeal against Surrey Heath Borough Council's decision for an advertisement site, your appeal must be made to the Planning Inspectorate. The best way to appeal is to complete the official advertisement appeal form which is available from the Inspector Inspectorate at this address:


The Planning Inspectorate
Customer Support Unit
Room 3/05, Temple Quay House
2 The Square
Temple Quay
Bristol BS1 6PN
Tel: 0117 372 6372

Email: enquiries@planning-inspectorate.gsi.gov.uk

Your appeal must normally be made within eight weeks of the date when you receive notification of the planning authority's decision; but the Secretary of State has discretion to allow a later appeal if he considers that the circumstances justify it. The appeal procedure is fully explained on the appeal form, and you will find additional advice if you click the link above. The Secretary of State's decision on an appeal is usually the final determination, on 'amenity', and 'public safety', for your advertisement application, although there is a further right to appeal to the High Court, on a point of law or if there has been a breach of natural justice.

Illegal advertisements

Anyone who displays an advertisement, or uses an advertisement site, or knowingly permits someone else to do so, without the consent required for it is acting illegally. It is then immediately open to Surrey Heath Borough Council to bring a prosecution in the Magistrates' Court for an offence under section 224 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. But, unless an offence is especially flagrant or repeated, Surrey Heath Borough Council may not initially consider it necessary to prosecute for an advertisement offence. Instead, it may invite the advertiser to apply for the consent it believes he needs, and, if consent is refused, there will be a right of appeal to the Secretary of State.

The continued display of any advertisement after consent has been refused, and any appeal dismissed, may well result in prosecution. The maximum fine on conviction of an offence is presently level 3, with an additional daily fine of one-tenth of the maximum penalty on conviction of a continuing offence.

It is illegal to display any advertisement (even if it has deemed consent) without first obtaining the permission of the owner of the site, or any other person who is entitled to grant permission.

Any form of fly-posting (that is, displaying an advertisement without consent) is an offence which is immediately open to prosecution, or to the removal or obliteration of any fly-posting material if Surrey Heath Borough Council decides to take remedial action against fly-posting in their area. In the case of a placard or poster, if the material identifies the advertiser displaying it, Surrey Heath Borough Council must give two days' written notice of the intention to remove or obliterate it. This advance notice gives the advertiser the opportunity to contest the Council's proposed actions, but if the advertiser is not identified a placard or poster may be immediately removed or obliterated.