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Banners, buntings, seasonal lights or flower baskets over the highway

Banners, buntings and seasonal lights are often erected to enhance the atmosphere of special events.  Their use decorates the streets and adds to the ambience.  However, poor choice of location or mountings can create a real danger to highway users as can setting them up without taking suitable precautions. 

The Highways Act 1980 empowers the Council to issue licences for these decorations.

Getting a licence is simple and will not cost you anything (provided you are holding a community event).  Please remember that some banners may require planning permission as well as highway consent and that permission to erect banners is restricted to specific, suitable locations.  Please download the relevant application form:

Your banners must not include any markings or words that could be mistaken for highway directional signs; please choose your wording/symbols carefully.  We will not approve any application that includes offensive material.

If you are proposing to erect banners, buntings or seasonal lights here are some questions you should consider:

  1. How are you going to erect them?  Working at height can be dangerous. 
  2. How are you going to get them across the highway, road or footway without endangering highway users including pedestrians?  Stretching lines across the live highway is dangerous and illegal.
  3. To what are you going to attach the banners, buntings or lights?  Not everything is suitable to attach a line to.  You need to ask yourself the questions 'is it strong enough?' and 'if the line is snagged by a high vehicle will the line break or pull down what it is attached to?'
  4. With what or how are you going to attach the banners, buntings or lights?  Tying to a tree branch that waves in the wind will affect the clearance; old rusting hooks and gutters may not withstand the loading, even if they have in the past.
  5. Have you permission to attach to private or Council property?  You must seek permission from the property owners and will be required to confirm that you have done so.
  6. How high will the banners, buntings or lights be above the highway once in place?  Double decker buses are nearly 15 feet high but may not be the tallest vehicle that uses the route.
  7. Have you considered the dangers of overhead power lines, etc?  Many properties receive their electricity via overhead cables.  You must ensure that you do not attach your lines too close to power lines and you should avoid attaching to electricity poles on which power lines are mounted. 
  8. How will access be maintained to any power supply cut off switches in case of an emergency?  If there was an incident and your lights ended up on the highway whilst live it is essential that emergency services or highways staff are able to isolate the power.

As an event organiser you have a duty to undertake a risk assessment and record what measures you have taken to mitigate risk.  You will find some useful advice on risk assessments on our events pages.