A pub landlord faced a huge fine for displaying an advertising board on the side of a pub without permission. It pays to understand what the rules are when it comes to promoting events outside your venue.

Competition in the industry is fierce.  We live in the age of the “two for one”, the pub quiz night, the themed dining evening………..the possibilities are endless and the concepts are imaginative.  Obviously the latest deal that a pub, club, restaurant or hotel is offering needs to be well advertised and promoted in the interests of attracting the volume of trade necessary for it to be a success.  At times operators decide to use some form of outdoor advertising – e.g a poster or banner. But can you just stick these up on the front of the building or in the car park or on the railings outside the premises?

One landlord in Gateshead learnt to his cost that the answer is no!  You need the express consent of your the local planning authority before virtually any poster or banner can be put up outside a pub, restaurant, cafe, hotel or club.  In very limited cases an advert is exempt from control or is given deemed consent (see below).

A very costly advert

The landlord of the Whickham House pub was fined a total of £51,000 when he failed to remove an advertising board from the side of his pub.  He was originally convicted and fined £1,000 for displaying the board without permission, however, he still did not remove it and after a second court hearing was fined an additional £50,750 or £250 for every day that he had continued display the board without permission.

When will permission be given/refused?

The local planning authority does not consider the subject matter of an advertisement but looks at whether it is in the interests of amenity and public safety.  There is no detailed definition of “amenity” or “public safety” but some local authorities have published advertisement control policy statements setting out what they look at when considering advertisement applications and it is worth obtaining this for your local area.


In practice, ‘amenity’ is usually understood to mean the effect that the advertisement will have on the visual amenity in the immediate neighbourhood, where passers-by, or people living there, will be aware of the advertisement.

The planning authority will always consider the local characteristics of the neighbourhood. For example, is the advertisement in keeping with any historic, architectural or cultural features?  Consent might be refused for a large poster-hoarding which would visually dominate a listed pub or hotel.

Public Safety

Public safety concerns will relate to traffic and pedestrian safety.  The planning authority will consider whether your advertisement, or the spot where you propose to site it, will be so distracting or confusing that will create a hazard or danger for someone taking reasonable care of their own and others’ safety.  Whilst it is accepted that advertisements are designed to attract people’s attention an advertisement must not, for example, cause confusion with road signs or traffic signals

The Department for Communities and Local Government publishes a useful guide for those considering outdoor advertising.  READ MORE

Deemed Consent

In very limited circumstances advertisements are exempt from the need for permission.  For example, a placard carried by a person, an advert on a vehicle or a sign in the fabric of the building such as a pub name incorporated in the brickwork does not need permission.

There are also some situations where consent is deemed to be given.  The following may be relevant to the pub, hotel and restaurant sectors: consent is deemed given for a pub or hotel name sign or a sign which describes what is for sale at the premises e.g. a sign saying cafe or chemist. An advert can also be displayed on the forecourt of business premises e.g. a terrace or pub garden.  This does not include the pavement or any other part of the highway.

What if I don’t get planning permission?

If you display an advertisement without the local planning authority’s consent when it is required, the maximum fine is currently £2,500 (plus a daily fine of £250 if you are convicted of a continuing offence).  It is a defence to show that the advertisement was displayed without your knowledge, or that you took all reasonable steps to prevent the display or to remove it once it had been displayed.


It is an offence to put up any advertisement without first obtaining the permission of the owner of the site.  For example, you could not advertise next week’s “two for one meal deal” by sticking posters on lamp posts.  This is known as fly-posting and it is illegal.  The planning authority can often immediately remove or obliterate the posters or may prosecute.

The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the present time and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.