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Statement regarding signage displayed in car parks

The Council is aware of an increasing issue relating to the display of warning signs relating to parking restrictions displayed by companies responsible for the management of car parks. Commonly these car parks relate to retail operations. It is noted that this is not an issue exclusive to Copeland but is a matter raised with a number of local planning authorities nationally.

The signs are subject to controls under the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) Regulations 2007. The signs do not need planning permission but in most cases will need to be the subject of a consent to display an advertisement. This is an important distinction because the process of dealing with signs which are displayed without consent is different to enforcement action relating to unauthorised development. An unauthorised building or development would be subject to an enforcement notice and it is only when the requirements of the notice are not met that prosecution might follow. The unauthorised display of a sign is an offence which can lead directly to prosecution. As with many other areas of the law, this does not mean that every single breach becomes the subject of formal prosecution.

Whilst not removing the historic offence, it is possible for those displaying the advertisement to seek consent for the continued display. In such cases the local planning authority would need to consider the signs against usual planning considerations – is there any issue with highway safety; do the signs present any issue in terms of amenity or cause harm to the way an area looks. It would not be appropriate for the planning process to take other matters into account, including any consideration as to whether the restrictions imposed on the car park or other parking management issues to which the signage relates might otherwise be acceptable or appropriate.

Where complaints about the display of unauthorised signs on car parks in Copeland have been received, landowners and those responsible for the display have been advised to submit an application for consent to display an advertisement. The Council will seek to advise all parties responsible for car parks in the borough of this position.

To date applications which have been considered have been approved. This is because in the context of a supermarket car park the signs have not been found to cause such harm to highway safety or amenity issues such as would justify a refusal to grant consent. The signs on Morrisons’ supermarket are now displayed lawfully. Unless clear and obvious harm to highway safety or amenity issues was to result from the display of this type of signage it is likely that the Council would follow a similar course in other cases.

The Council could consider action over the display of the signs before consent was granted. National guidance on enforcement discourages pursuit of a technical breach where an acceptable remedy is achieved, including where consent is granted. Because the Council has concluded that consent should be granted it is not considered that prosecution would represent a proportionate or appropriate use of scarce council resources. Consistency in approach would require consideration of action against a large number of signs on commercial premises which may be in technical breach but have not necessarily been the subject of specific compliant – an unnecessary and inappropriate burden on business within the Borough.


The Council is aware of the suggestion that unauthorised signs should be prosecuted and those responsible for display pursued under the legislation relating to the recovery of proceeds of crime.