Top Tips for Outdoor Signage

Exterior signage is a highly important aspect of the frontage of a business. From hospitals to office buildings, externals signs continually communicate the message of your brand and business name. 

Not only do signs outside tell passers-by who you are but also where they are. They can be used as aids for directions and can become local landmarks. They are the identifiers to your customers that they have reached their destination.

There are rules in place to regulate exterior signage for businesses. It’s critical to be aware of the rules when ordering a sign for your business – the last thing you want is for the sign to be unusable. In this article we’ll explain some of the key regulations.

Who Regulates External Signage?

The Advertisement Control System contains rules about all kinds of advertisements, both indoor and outdoor. An advertisement sign could be a poster, flag, fascia or projecting sign. In this blog, we’re talking about the kind of sign you would see outside an, apartment complex, hospital or office building.

In England, local planning authorities are responsible for enforcing the Advertisement Control System. This means it is the local county council, district council or London borough council that the sign will be located within. There are two exceptions to this. If the external sign was to be displayed in a National Park or Broads area, they will be the authority. The second exception is if the sign was to be placed in an urban development area, in which case the relevant Urban Development Corporation will be the responsible authority. 

The Secretary of State deals with appeals if the local planning authority do not give consent for signage to be erected or installed. 

UoB School of Engineering
National Brownfield Institute

Do I Need Planning Permission For An Outdoor Sign?

Not all advertisements or signs require planning permission, but some do. Therefore, it is recommended to understand if yours will need any permission before ordering the sign.  

The Advertisement Control System breaks different types of signs into classes. If your sign conforms to all of the regulations in the class it falls into, you usually won’t need planning permission.

For example, Class 2(B) allows business to have signage that signals they trade at that property. As long as their signage does not exceed 0.3 square metres and isn’t illuminated, then the name of the business can be displayed. In Class 2(B) the only signs that can be lit up, are ones that indicate medical or similar services or supplies are available there. 

Class 4 is all about illumination. Advertisements in this category are permitted to have “either internally illuminated letters or characters on an unilluminated background or lit by ‘halo’ illumination” (Advertisement Control System). 

Specifically, Class 4(B) relates to illuminated lights on a business premises if they relate to the name of the business, qualifications of the person carrying on the business, or the goods or services sold. Again, there are restrictions on this type of signage though. An example of this is, the sign “must not have any intermittent light source, moving feature, animation or exposed cold cathode tubing”.

Class 5 of the Advertisement Control System gives even more permissions when it comes to external signage for businesses. As long the advertisements are only referring to the business being conducted on that premises. It gives a bit more scope for variety but still includes restrictions based around illumination and size. 

Because of all these classes and restrictions, it could be easy to interpret something incorrectly. The local authority will often be the best source of confirmation. For very large or complex signage it is likely you will need planning permission. Although planning permission can sound off-putting, it doesn’t mean it will be impossible to get. You can also speak with the team of experts at xsign who have many years of experience in sign making. They really understand the regulations and can advise on when design ideas are likely to need permissions.