Appeal Court backs council's action against flashing advertising displays

The Court of Appeal has upheld a planning inspector's ruling that a west London council was within its rights to remove deemed consent for illuminated signs located within a building, dismissing a claim that the move was 'draconian'.

London's Royal Courts of Justice
London's Royal Courts of Justice

According to the court’s judgment on the case, in October 2016, the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham issued a discontinuance notice (DN) in relation to LED signs displayed within Riverbank House on the north side of Putney Bridge.

Measures in the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) (England) Regulations 2007 grant signs located within buildings deemed consent, but this is subject to exceptions, and councils can still take action "to remedy a substantial injury to the amenity of the locality".

The building's owner, Putney Bridge Approach Ltd, challenged the discontinuance notice, arguing that the council had gone too far in effectively banning all hypothetical illuminated signs on the site, however large or small.

Its appeal was rejected by a planning inspector in August last year.

According to the Appeal Court judgement, the inspector found that the "extremely prominent" moving displays were "overly large, dominant and incongruous".

They could be seen from three conservation areas and from the settings of a number of listed buildings. Local residents had also complained of being disturbed by their flashing effect, the judgement said.

The inspector’s decision was upheld by High Court judge, Mr Justice Ouseley, in December.

Now, in dismissing Putney Bridge Approach Ltd’s challenge to the latter ruling, the Court of Appeal rejected its claim that the DN was "draconian" in its effect.

Although it terminated the deemed consent for all possible illuminated signs, Lord Justice Coulson found that it did not prevent the company from seeking the council’s express consent for alternative advertising displays on the site, the Appeal Court ruled.

"If the [council] reasonably conclude that there is or is likely to be a substantial injury to the amenity of the locality, caused not by a particular advertisement, but the use of a particular site for the display of advertisements of the relevant category, then a valid DN can be served under [Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) (England) Regulations 2007]", the judgement said. 

The judge, sitting with Lords Justice Hamblen and Hickinbottom, found that the inspector’s factual conclusions and exercise of her planning judgment were "unassailable".

Last week, the Court of Appeal upheld a council's enforcement action against the illegal development of three new residential buildings in the countryside, refuting the owner's claim that the authority's demand for the complete demolition of the structures was "over-enforcement". 

Putney Bridge Approach Limited v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Case Number:C1/2017/3478

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