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Somerset agent in board display spat

A spat has broken out between a North Somerset agent and his local council over the display of a sale board.

Mark Hayward, director of Wrington-based Debbie Fortune Estate Agents, is objecting to the council’s demand for an application for planning permission for the placement of the firm’s board alongside that of Knight Frank with which it is sharing the instruction.

The council’s request is based on the Town and County Planning Regulations 2007, which state that not more than one advertisement, consisting of a single board or two joined boards, is permitted; and where more than one advertisement is displayed the first to be displayed shall be taken to be the one permitted.

Speaking exclusively to The Negotiator, Hayward, says: “Despite the fact I have argued that two back-to-back boards still only display the permited square metre, albeit have different messages, this is not permissible. It is £335 to apply for permission to display the board, which may only be up for two weeks.”

Property Ombudsman Christopher Hamer says: "North Somerset Council is displaying an excess of zeal and its expressed views are contrary to what the Town and Country Planning Regulations 2007 actually intended.

As Mark Hayward correctly points out, the legislation concerning estate agency advertisements is contained within the Town and County Planning (Control of Advertisements (England) Regulations 2007.  Clause 3 of these provisions state that planning consent can be deemed, providing that the advertisement meets certain conditions, one of which is that not more than one advertisement, consisting of a single board or two joined boards, will be permitted at a property.

"North Somerset Council’s view appears to be that, to qualify as a joined board, the two boards must be joined at an angle, but it does not stipulate if it considers that the boards should be identical, containing the same message. However, guidance provided by other councils advises that two boards placed back-to-back would satisfy these requirements. I have been unable to find any case law that clarifies this issue and must assume that a common sense reading of the legislation would permit a joined board to be erected, of the type that Debbie Fortune had deemed appropriate.

Ian Ginbey, planning partner at London law firm Macfarlanes, says: “Whilst the council’s interpretation of the regulations is legally correct, generally I would hope that local planning authorities would consider that their resources are better spent elsewhere rather than seeking to enforce against such minor breaches. This is clearly an area that would benefit from a more streamlined procedure and a common sense approach by authorities.”

The council was unavailable for comment.

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