Profile information Member settings
Sign up Sign in

What is a business sign?

A business sign is a visual display (typically mounted on a building or in its vicinity) that communicates certain information about the business. For example, the business’ name, logo, product or service. Business signs form an integral part of a business’ marketing strategy, used to attract customers and raise brand awareness.

Which signs are businesses allowed to use?

Conservation areas have their own rules

If your business is in a conservation area (or a listed building) then you need to research what you can and cannot do in that specific area or building. As a rule of thumb, you are likely to only be permitted to have signage if it’s totally in keeping with the character of the area or building. While this can be restrictive, it also preserves the uniqueness of the area or building, which was probably a large part of the reason why you chose that site for your business in the first place.

 Planning decisions are taken at the local authority level

The government sets guidelines on the use of signage. It is, however, down to each local authority to implement these. What that means in practice is that business signs that are obviously considered permissible are likely to be passed without issue. If, however, a sign is a borderline case, then it’s down to each local authority to decide if it’s acceptable to them. The safest option, therefore, is to use signage that is clearly permitted under the government’s guidance.

In total, there are 16 classes of signs that a business is assumed to have consent to use and that they therefore do not need planning permission for. 

Classes 1 and 10 relate to public bodies and approved protection schemes (eg Neighbourhood Watch) respectively. 

Below is a quick rundown of the other 14 classes and some more specific guidance about the classes mainly used by businesses. Please note, however, that these are only the key points. It’s important to check the full descriptions in the relevant government guidelines before you purchase your business signage.

Class 2: Miscellaneous advertisements on any premises

Class 2 covers most small signs that relate to the building or premises they are displayed on.

This class is further divided into 3 categories. In classes 2A and 2B, the signage must be a maximum of 0.3 square metres in area. In class 2C, it may be a maximum of 1.2 square metres in area. Signs in class 2A cannot be illuminated. Signs in classes 2B and 2C can only be illuminated if the purpose of the illumination is to highlight the availability of medical services. 

Class 2 is intended for functional signage. That would typically include signage that provides identification, directions, warnings, or information about what business operates in a building.

Class 3: Temporary advertisements

Class 3 covers signs used to advertise an upcoming event or inform people that a premises will be used for a specific function or event.

This class is further divided into 6 categories. These have widely different specifications for signage. There is, however, one common factor and that is that Class 3 signs are all intended to be used to advertise some kind of event. 

The deemed consent is therefore time-limited and the use of ‘temporary advertisements’ outside of these times is outside the scope of deemed consent.

Class 4: Illuminated advertisements

The key point to note here is that illuminated advertisements must have static illuminations. Deemed consent excludes any signs composed of any intermittent light source, moving feature, animation, or exposed cold cathode tubing.

Class 5: Advertisements on business premises

With class 5, deemed consent only covers adverts that specifically relate to the business premises on which they are being hosted. In other words, you can advertise your own goods and services but you do not have deemed consent to advertise goods and services for other people. For shops, deemed consent only extends to external walls with a shop window.

Class 6: Advertisements on forecourts of business premises

In order to qualify for class 6, signage must be on private land. The public highway in front of a business premises does not count as a forecourt. Additionally, the phrase ‘on forecourts’ means exactly that. The adverts must be at ground level (eg sandwich boards). They cannot be illuminated.

Class 12: Advertisements displayed inside buildings

In most buildings, this signage must be within one metre of the window through which it may be seen. In principle, class 12 adverts may be illuminated. Your local authority may, however, place restrictions on the specific types of illumination it will allow. For example, it may restrict the use of neon signs.

Other classes not mainly used by businesses

The other classes of signs that carry deemed consent are not primarily used by businesses. These include: 

  • Class 7: Flag advertisements

  • Class 8: Advertisements on hoardings around temporary construction sites

  • Class 9: Advertisements displayed on purpose-designed highway structures

  • Class 11: Directional advertisements

  • Class 13: Advertisements on sites used for the preceding 10 years for displaying advertisements

  • Class 14: Advertisements displayed after the expiry of express consent

  • Class 15: Captive balloons advertisements

  • Class 16: Advertisements on telephone kiosks

Regardless of what class of sign you use when utilising the deemed consent rules, your sign must comply with 5 standard conditions. The sign must:

  • be kept clean and in a good state of repair

  • be safe

  • be placed with the permission of the relevant landowner

  • not create a hazard for traffic or block the view of transport signs

  • be capable of being removed safely and without causing damage

With regard to the third point, local authorities are typically more concerned about you obtaining permission from relevant public bodies than from private landlords. That said, it’s highly advisable to make sure that your signage is in compliance with your Commercial lease.

It’s fairly common for landlords to request to approve any signage installed in their building. This gives them the opportunity to ensure that it’s not going to cause damage or inconvenience to other tenants. Remember, the fact that your local authority is fine with your signage does not mean that your neighbours will be happy about it.

Even if your lease does not explicitly mention signage, it’s advisable to check with your landlord before you go ahead and order anything. Your landlord may take the view that your sign contravenes some other aspect of your lease.

If they do, they may instruct you to take it down. In that situation, you face either wasting the money you spent on your sign or getting into a legal battle with your landlord. Neither of these is a particularly attractive option and both can be easily avoided with some basic communication.


In all circumstances, remember to read the government’s guidance on outdoor advertisements and signs before installing a sign. For more information on planning permission and advertising in general, read Planning permission, Use classes, and Advertisement regulations. If you have any questions or concerns, Ask a lawyer.

Malcolm Judson
Malcolm Judson
Managing Director at Judson Signs

Malcolm Judson is the Managing Director at Judson Signs, specialists in sign-making for vehicles, schools, and commercial and retail spaces. Judson Signs manage the entire sign-making process, from design and manufacturing to installation.

Ask a lawyer

Get quick answers from lawyers, easily.
Characters remaining: 600
Rocket Lawyer On Call Solicitors

Try Rocket Lawyer FREE for 7 days

Get legal services you can trust at prices you can afford. As a member you can:

Create, customise, and share unlimited legal documents

RocketSign® your documents quickly and securely

Ask any legal question and get an answer from a lawyer

Have your documents reviewed by a legal pro**

Get legal advice, drafting and dispute resolution HALF OFF* with Rocket Legal+

Your first business and trade mark registrations are FREE* with Rocket Legal+

**Subject to terms and conditions. Document Review not available for members in their free trial.