Subject to providing two working days’ notice, a Member of the Committee may ask the Chairman of the Committee a question on any matter in relation to which the Council has powers or duties which affect the Tendring District and which falls within the terms of reference of the Committee.
Councillor Coley had submitted the following question on notice pursuant to Council Procedure Rule 38 in relation to directional signs and advertising boards for planning developments:-
“Would it result in a greater level of general compliance if Planning Officers drew all developers’ attention to their legal requirements regarding the placing of advertising signs etc., and make compliance with all aspects of these regulations standard Planning Conditions?
The Secretary of State can suspend or remove permanently, Deemed Consent, in a particular area, on a request from a Local Authority. Should TDC not consider such an application in respect of sensitive conservation areas at least?”
Context supplied by Councillor Coley to his Question
“At the end of July this year, Mistley Parish Council asked my opinion concerning yellow Directional Advertising Signs, which had been placed by a large Housing Developer, on a Parish Council owned green space, affixed to a light standard, a few feet from a War Memorial, in a Conservation Area, directly opposite a Grade One Listed Monument.
I advised the Parish Council to carefully remove the signs and return them to the owning developers. The Parish Council notified the developer of their actions and asked where the signs should be delivered. This resulted in the developer aggressively threatening the Parish Council with legal action and claims for compensation. To say that I was enraged is an understatement in the extreme. I have taken the developer to task over this.
I was since advised by our Planning Department, that the yellow directional arrow signs that were placed around the area would potentially have had ‘deemed consent’, under Section 11 of the Advert Consent Legislation set out by the government. Except that the developers missed key points, which means the Parish or District Councils would be able to remove them, quite legally.
It seems that although developers have legal obligations regarding these signs they never comply with the requirements and our Council never bothers to ensure compliance. See below:
Class 11: directional advertisements:
Permits housebuilding firms to put up temporary directional signs, telling potential house buyers and other visitors how to reach a site where new residential development is taking place. The rules for Class 11 are:
ØSigns must not exceed 0.15 of a square metre in area
ØNo sign may exceed 4.6 metres above ground level, or 3.6 metres in an Area of Special Control of advertisements
ØAny lettering or other information on the sign must not be less than 40 millimetres or more than 250 millimetres high
ØRetroflective material and illumination must not be used
ØThe sign must not look like an official traffic sign
ØThe sign must be near to, but not on, highway land and not within 50 metres of an official traffic sign facing in the same direction
ØNo sign may be more than two miles from the main entrance to the housebuilding site
Ø14 days before any sign is put up, the local planning authority must be told where it is to be displayed and from what date
ØNo sign may continue to be displayed after development of the housebuilding site is completed; or for more than two years.
I have noted that many of these directional advertising signs have been in place for over 4 years. I have found that some are more than 5 miles from the relevant development site.
Another common and casual breach by developers is the erection of huge advertising boards and flagpoles. These require planning consent, but it seems rarely are these applied for and as a Council, we take no action unless a Member actually complains.
Then a cosy chat with the developer results in a belated, begrudged and retrospective planning application being submitted.
I have two of these live applications in my Ward currently. One for 18 flagpoles and two huge illuminated advertising boards on a site building 485 homes. The other for 10 flagpoles and two huge advertising boards on a site building 235 homes.
The Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) Regulations 2007, Class 7(B) permits the display of advertising flags at housebuilding sites and where new houses remain available for sale.
The 7(B) Rules state that:
ØEach flag must be on a single vertical flagstaff
ØA site where 10 houses or less are built, may have one flag.
ØA site where 11 to 100 houses are to be built, may have two flags
ØA site where over 100 houses are to be built, may have three flags.
ØThe flagstaffs may not exceed 4.6 metres in height.
ØThe flags must not exceed 2 square metres in area.
ØThe flags and flagstaffs must be removed at the end of one year after the last dwelling has been completed.
So why are these applications not routinely refused by Planning Officers?
Members, you may think that this is a minor issue and hardly worth your consideration. However, I liken this to the ‘Broken Window Syndrome’.
“The broken windows theory is a criminological theory that states that visible signs of crime, anti-social behaviour, and civil disorder create an urban environment that encourages further crime and disorder, including more serious crimes.”
The analogy is that unless you concern yourselves with the minor transgressions, then the offender considers you to be a soft touch, lacking the will or determination to ensure compliance with more serious transgressions. This leads to a casual and persistent failure to comply with legal obligations.
In our Ward, we have battled with developers consistently breaching numerous and various planning rules and obligations over the last four years. Seemingly, because they know they can.
Our Ward is undergoing a huge amount of housing development and will do over the next eight to ten years. There are several developers involved in these works. Signs, hoardings, flags and direction boards are invading every open space.
In almost all cases these signs and flags have been erected without compliance with any of the legal requirements. If the impression given by this Council is that we don’t care, then why should any of the developers care, about any compliance?”
The Chairman of the Planning Policy & Local Plan Committee (Councillor Turner) replied as follows:-
“The Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) (England) Regulations 2007 and Circular 03/07: Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) (England) Regulations 2007 detail the advert regulations. On this basis deemed consent is available across the District for adverts and this includes those available to developers who may wish to advertise the routes to get to their site and on-site advertising of their development.
In respect of question 1. Failure to comply with the requirements of the advertisement regulations can be reported to our enforcement team for them to investigate. This would include enforcement of the 5 standard conditions under said regulations that would apply in all cases. In summary, these refer to ownership, endangerment of the highway, visual amenity, maintained in condition not to endanger the public, and restoration of sites. Making developers more aware of advert regulations when dealing with planning applications for other development maybe helpful to applicants/developers, perhaps as further informative notes. Further awareness could be a consideration for the future web site review and pre application discussions. It would not be reasonable or possible to condition adverts when they are not part of the proposal before the Local Planning Authority to consider and/or not part of the application site to reasonably control in some cases.
However, it is often a need to control construction management of a development site to protect amenity and this may include understanding routing options for construction development. It may be possible to add to the standard condition for said management for the inclusion of directional signs and that may be reasonable.
In respect of question 2. The Secretary of State can restrict deemed consent for adverts in an area. Government guidance is available on this point, but in summary: “it must be clear that one or more of the deemed consent provisions has had such adverse effects on the amenity or public safety of the area that there is no prospect of an improvement in the quality of advertising in the locality, unless the local planning authority are given the power to control that particular type of advertisement.” Accordingly, it is unlikely that blanket restriction would be successful and evidence for certain areas in these terms would be needed. Historic interests in respect of Conservation Areas are not a specific criteria in this matter, but it is noted conservation areas already means adverts are restricted in those areas. In addition, the Secretary of State must publicise a local planning authority’s proposal for any restriction, allow an opportunity for representations to be made and taken into account. This may result in publication of the proposal and a public hearing to examine the proposal and any representations. If successful, the details of the direction must be published and those owners / occupiers displaying advertisements which are affected by the direction in the area(s) must be notified. Accordingly, there is a process for such request, but resource, evidence and reasonable justification would be required to seek such a restriction and such evidence is not considered to be available at this time.
In summary therefore:-
Q1: Making developers more aware of advert regulations when dealing with planning applications for other development maybe helpful to applicants/developers, perhaps as further informative notes. Further awareness could be a consideration of the future web site review and pre-application discussions. It would not be reasonable or possible to condition adverts when they are not part of the proposal before the Local Planning Authority to consider and/or not part of the application site to reasonably control in some cases.
Q2: The Secretary of State can restrict deemed consent for adverts in an area. Government guidance is available on this point, but in summary “it must be clear that one or more of the deemed consent provisions has had such adverse effects on the amenity or public safety of the area that there is no prospect of an improvement in the quality of advertising in the locality, unless the local planning authority are given the power to control that particular type of advertisement.” There is a process for such request, but evidence and reasonable justification would be required to seek such a restriction and such evidence is not considered to be available at this time.”
With the permission of the Chairman, Councillor Coley then asked a supplementary question in which he sought clarification of the advice given in answer to Question 1 and specifically with regards to enforcement.
The Acting Director (Planning) then responded to that supplementary question.