• VCAT

November 23, 2022

Planning for Advertising Signs

Whilst the role of planning is generally merited towards the approvals of development projects, use applications and various buildings and works matters, smaller factors such as advertising signage often plays a part in many commercial and industrial developments in and around Greater Melbourne. As a professional planning consultancy, we have dealt with numerous advertising signage matters as standalone applications, and as part of larger projects.

What is an Advertising Sign?

An advertising sign is essentially a sign that is erected and displayed on the outside of a building. Signs can be erected atop walls, hung below awnings, and placed inside windows. Clause 52.05 of the Planning Scheme identifies signs in the following way:

  • Business Identification Sign
  • Promotion Sign
  • Direction Sign
  • Internally Illuminated Sign
  • Home Based Business Sign
  • Bed and Breakfast Sign
  • Pole Sign
  • Above-Verandah Sign
  • Electronic Sign
  • Floodlit Sign
  • High-wall Sign
  • Reflective Sign

Signs can be classed as one or more of the above.

The most common form of signs are business identification signs and internally illuminated signs. In most cases, developers, shop owners and traders aim to include business identification signs on the exterior of their tenancy, and in some cases these signs feature internal illumination. In many cases, business identification signs feature internal illumination (via a lightbox).

What signs need a planning permit?

In addition to the above, Clause 52.05 contains thresholds for signs that do and do not require a permit, this Clause can be found here. Signage requirements are broken up into four categories:

  • Category 1: Commercial Areas
  • Category 2: Office and Industrial
  • Category 3: High Amenity Areas
  • Category 4: Sensitive Areas

The thresholds in each category are different, and the relevant zone that a subject site is located within will determine which category applies for the purpose of signage. For example, the Category 1 signage thresholds will apply to a site within the Commercial 1 Zone and Category 2 signage thresholds will apply to a site within the Industrial 1 Zone and so forth.

As the categories descend, the permit requirements for signs increase. In Category 1 areas, most signs can be displayed without a permit where the total area of all signs is less than 8sqm. This is similar in Category 2 areas. In Category 3 and 4 areas, virtually all signs require a planning permit.

How complex are signage applications?

Inherently, signage matters are considered to be lower on the complexity scale than many other forms of planning applications. The general time taken to process and approve a signage application is around three months. However, depending on the scale of signage proposed, assessment can be quite comprehensive. The three most comprehensive forms of signage applications are below:

  • Signage abutting a Transport Zone
  • Signage on a Heritage Building
  • Major Promotion / Animated signs

Signage abutting a transport zone is required to be referred to the Department of Transport as it carries a risk to the safety of drivers, cyclists and the like. The Department of Transport must assess whether a proposed sign would reasonably or unreasonably impede on the context of any toad within a nearby Transport Zone. For such reasons, illuminated forms of signage also must be regulated to control the level of illumination outputted by the signs. These kinds of signage applications can certainly be approved, however require a deeper level of analysis and extended processing times due to external referral requirements.

Signage on heritage buildings is required to be assessed by Council’s internal heritage advisor as signage must be assessed on whether it will adversely impact the heritage of a building. On these buildings, large forms of signage with abundances of colour and illumination are generally discouraged by Councils as it is a common view that any sign on a such a building should not detract from its original features and presentation to the street.

Major Promotion and Animated signs are the type of signs that exist atop buildings, on billboards and in heavily commercialised centres. These signs are used for promotional and advertising material and generally are changeable. As these signs are generally large and visually obtrusive, Council’s will often spend considerable time to determine whether the benefit of such a sign is larger than its potential amenity impacts to nearby pedestrians, land uses and in common circumstances, nearby apartment buildings. Major promotion signs also contain separate decision guidelines within Clause 52.05 which require them to be appropriately located in reference to residential areas, natural landscaping and reserves and areas with potential to disrupt views.

Requirements for a signage application.

In order to lodge an application for signage, the following must be prepared:

  • A short report outlining the context of the site, the purpose of the signage and the likely effect it may have on surrounding land uses.
  • A site context plan, denoting the location of any proposed signs on a building, as well as the locations of surrounding buildings and land uses.
  • A signage plan containing details of all proposed signs including dimensions, colours, heights and illumination.

For signs over 18sqm in area, further information such as streetscape perspectives, advertising themes, existing character and potential effects on viewlines must also be included.

It is always recommended that you seek a town planner to advise on the necessary requirements as each proposal and site context is different and warrants an individual perspective.

We at CS Town Planning have demonstrated experience of obtaining signage approvals for a wide range of clients, having served small local businesses around Melbourne and larger corporations across the nation. We provide written advice on whether signs need permits, and if so, how to best obtain them. Our advice is reputable and reliable, and we take pride in providing certainty to our clients.