Development Management SPD

Ended on the 5th February 2021
If you are having trouble using the system, please try our help guide.

11 Shop fronts and advertisements


Why are shop fronts important?

11.1 Harborough District Council is committed to maintaining and improving the District's shopping streets and centres. Policy RT3 of the Harborough Local Plan recognizes that shop fronts play a key role in creating attractive and vibrant areas which people want to live in and visit. Shop fronts serve a number of purposes - they provide an attractive display for goods and they also advertise the presence of the shop and therefore project an image for the business inside. Shop fronts have a significant impact on the character and attractiveness of a town centre. Many successful and popular shopping areas today are those which offer an attractive, pleasant shopping environment and good quality shop front design helps to enhance this, which in turn can help encourage investment and spending bringing benefits to all commercial interests. This design guide is aimed to help retailers by highlighting more detailed design considerations that should be taken into account for any businesses who may wish to alter to change their shop front.

Diagram of terms and example of a well-designed shop front

Retention of Shopfronts

11.2 Where an existing shopfront contributes to the character and visual amenity of the building or area, it should be kept and not replaced. Existing features on traditional shopfronts such as pilasters, fascias, cornices should be retained and restored where possible.

11.3 Alterations to shopfronts on Listed Buildings will only be permitted where the alterations preserve the special architectural or historic character of the building and setting. Similarly, proposals to alter traditional shopfronts in Conservation Areas will need to demonstrate an appreciation of the significance of the Conservation Area and serve to preserve or enhance the character and appearance of that area.

New/Replacement Shopfronts

11.4 In certain cases, new/replacement shopfronts may be necessary or even desirable. Shops and other uses such as offices and industrial buildings must provide for an active frontage which means lots of windows facing onto the public realm, this creates an active and lively place and also helps surveillance. Inactive frontages in the form of solid walls or dummy windows/facades will not normally be acceptable in most locations.

11.5 If a decision is made to install a new/replacement shopfront to an existing building, the main point to bear in mind is that the shopfront must relate to the whole building of which it is an integral part, including the upper storeys and the shopfront must respect the proportions and architectural detailing of the building. As well as considering the original building itself, a shopfront's proportion, materials and detailing should also respect the character and the hierarchy of existing buildings along the street. This is particularly important where a number of different shopfronts are found within a single façade or in a particularly uniform street scene. New shopfronts should neither dominate the street scene nor detract from the character of historic buildings or other buildings in the immediate vicinity.

11.6 Where a shop occupies more than one building/plot width the shop front and display should be suitably punctuated. The shopfront should not extend across the width of several buildings without visual breaks.

11.7 Where the elevations are of different design, new shopfronts should take account of the variation of individual buildings and should not attempt to divorce the ground floor from the upper storey of the building through an overemphasis of the fascia. It should be remembered that the shopfront creates a solid visual base to the building above and therefore total removal of a shopfront to open up the frontage will be unacceptable.

11.8 If a traditional style replacement is to be used, it should be appropriate to the building and locality. Good design need not necessarily be traditional and there are many locations where a well designed modern shopfront will be acceptable but it must be sympathetic to the building above. By their nature shopfronts are viewed from close range as well as from a distance. As a result, the design of each component as well as the overall appearance is important and the shopfront as a whole will be expected to exhibit a high standard in design and choice of materials, irrespective of whether the design is traditional or contemporary.

Shopfront Fascias

11.9 Fascias separate the shopfront from the upper floors of a building. New fascias must be of a scale and design in proportion to the design of the shopfront and height of the building as a whole.

11.10 Fascias should be positioned well below first floor cills with a space in between the cills and the fascia, fascias should not encroach on any existing string course, cornice or other architectural feature. Fascias should not be extended below the head of the pilasters and not above any cornice level in an attempt to increase the area of an advertisement.

11.11 Where there are no pilasters, the fascia should be in proportion to the shopfront, the host building and any adjacent buildings - as a general rule the depth of fascia boards should not be more than one sixth of the total height from the ground to the top of the fascia board.

11.12 Where excessively deep fascias have been introduced in the past, the overall height should be decreased in any replacement to expose the wall surface above. The existence of any former unsuitable fascia should not influence the design of a replacement and any new fascia should not be applied over the top of an existing one.

11.13 Normally only one fascia board per plot frontage will be acceptable. Shops or businesses on upper floors will not be permitted fascias above ground level. A suitable method of advertising first floor premises is the use of gold, cream or white lettering applied directly to window panes or through the shared advertising space of the ground floor trader.

11.14 Fascia boards should be of painted wood or of a matt surface. Shiny synthetic materials will not normally be accepted. Where possible street numbers should normally be shown on the fascia board. For more information of fascia board signage see Part 2.


11.15 The stallriser forms a plinth at ground level creating a solid visual base for a building. It completes the shopfront by providing balanced proportions, reducing the dominance of glazing and providing some protection to the shop front and window against accidental knocks.

11.16 New and replacement shopfronts in traditional buildings should incorporate a stallriser. The depth of stallriser must be cohesive with the overall design of the shopfront. In modern buildings the absence of a stallriser presents a design challenge to ensure the shopfront respects the proportion of the building as a whole. It may be beneficial to add a stallriser, especially to a shop front in a Conservation Area as this will help a new shop front to fit in and to respect the character of the area.

Windows, Doors and Glazing

11.17 Extensive glazing should be avoided so that a shopfront looks structurally supported as opposed to a void supporting a substantial building above it.

11.18 Shop windows should have substantial frames, there should be flanking pilasters either side of shop windows, preferably panelled, reeded or fluted. A design with strong vertical lines will hold the customers' eyes for a longer period than those with horizontal emphasis. Therefore large areas of window glass should be sub-divided by the use of mullions or transoms, the subdivision of windows should reflect the symmetry and proportions of the shop and/or building.

11.19 Doors may be recessed which helps break up the shopfront and provides scope for additional decoration with mosaic or tiles which provides interest, depth and relief to the shopfront. The return window or windows leading to a recessed door should be at an angle. This is a traditional feature of shop fronts and is welcoming to visitors.

11.20 Special care should be taken over the design of shop front entrances and entrances to upper floors, so that they fit together as a uniform whole below a single fascia. Where separate access to upper floors survives this is important and should be retained in any new shopfront design.


11.21 The choice of materials in shopfront design is particularly important.

11.22 Historically timber has been the traditional shop front material and has proved both versatile and durable. The use of timber is still encouraged, particularly in Conservation areas or on Listed Buildings. However, the type of timber used, its quality, durability and appearance can have a considerable bearing on the visual appearance and maintenance of the shopfront and should be carefully considered at the initial stages.

11.23 Although timber is the most common and perhaps visually most successful material for shopfronts, other materials such as stone, brick, iron or more modern materials such as powder coated aluminium can also be acceptable. The main consideration in determining the exterior finish of shopfronts are location and appearance; the chosen material should be in keeping with its surroundings.

11.24 Colour for a shopfront has the power to make or mar the overall street scene. Sensitive use of colour, respecting the age and setting of a building offers scope to improve the shopping street and in general rich dark colours or those that are muted in tone give the most suitable background to highlight a window display.

11.25 The District Council accepts no obligation to perpetuate any corporate image, the Council encourages variations to corporate images/branding to protect the uniqueness of locations.

11.26 From a safety standpoint, colours, even when non-illuminated, should not hinder easy recognition of traffic signs.

Canopies and Blinds

11.27 The purpose of canopies/blinds should be to provide weather protection to shoppers and to shade shop windows, they should not obstruct pedestrians or other highway users if applicable.

11.28 Canopies and blinds are unlikely to be acceptable where they disrupt the architectural rhythm of unified terraces or street facades or where they obscure architectural details. Canopies and blinds should only be sited at ground floor fascia level.

11.29 The design of blinds should complement the elevation and shopfront and overall character of the building. Canopies and blinds should be carefully incorporated into the design of the fascia. Blinds should always fully retract into the fascia and should usually cover the whole width of a shopfront or be the same width as the fascia. Neither blinds nor canopies should not be retained permanently open in order to provide additional advertising or signage.

11.30 Blinds and canopies should be constructed with traditional materials such as canvas, glossy plastic materials are likely to be unacceptable. Colours should match or complement the fascia and advertising, logos or signage should be discrete and should relate solely to the trade or name of the business. We recommended that lettering on canopies/blinds is no more than 200mm in height.

Shopfront security

11.31 It is important to consider shopfront security early in the design process and not as an afterthought. Security shutters, particularly external solid metal shutters are unattractive, have an intimidating effect at night time, are vulnerable to graffiti and decrease the overall perceived attractiveness of the shopping street.

11.32 All proposals for security shutters should present supporting evidence justifying why they are necessary. Only in very exceptional circumstances will the external attachment of permanent roller shutters be considered and the external attachment of security shutters will not be acceptable within conservation areas or on listed buildings. In any application for external roller shutters, an applicant must satisfy the District Council as to why alternatives such as safety glazing; internal window security grilles; external removable window security grilles are not suitable.

11.33 Where roller shutters are acceptable, they should be confined to structural openings and window areas only and should not extend across architectural detailing.

11.34 Shutter boxes should be recessed within the structure of the building or disguised behind shop fascias. Metal shutters should have a coloured, painted finish and details of materials and colour to be used must be submitted in any application.

11.35 Burglar Alarms should be sited as unobtrusively as possible. They should never be located on architectural features such as consoles or pilasters. Where mounted on traditional joinery they should be painted in a matching colour.



11.36 The display of advertising is regulated by the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) (England) Regulations 2007. These regulations permit the Local Planning Authority to control outdoor advertising in the interests of amenity and public safety. Some advertisements benefit from "deemed consent" under the regulations, this allows the display of certain "specified classes" of advertisement without first having to make an application to the Local Planning Authority. Guidance for this can be found within the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) (England) Regulations 2007 and also within 'Outdoor advertisements and signs: A guide for advertisers' (CLG:2007).

11.37 Where advertisements have deemed consent and do not require formal advertisement consent the guidance in this Harborough District Supplementary Planning Document should still be applied as a matter of good practice. Reference should also be made to guidance on shopfronts.

11.38 Outdoor advertising is essential to commercial activity, however, the appearance of a good building or area can easily be spoiled by a poorly or insensitively placed sign or advertisement, or by a choice of advertisement materials, colour, proportion or illumination which is alien to the building's design or fabric. Policy RT3 of the Harborough Local Plan seeks to ensure that advertisements respect the character and architectural details of the buildings on which they are proposed and their surroundings.

What do we consider?

11.39 The following factors will be taken into account when considering an advertisement application.

  • The general character of the area (e.g. residential, commercial, industrial, countryside) and whether the advertisement is of a sympathetic size, scale, proportion, colour and design for its surroundings.
  • Whether the advertisement will be visually intrusive or dominant.
  • Whether the advertisement will detract from the appearance of the building it is sited on.
  • Whether the addition of an advertisement would cause or contribute to visual clutter and the presence of other advertising in the area.
  • Whether the removal of any other redundant signs, supports or brackets is proposed.
  • Whether the sign is illuminated and if so, the type of illumination.
  • The effects on the setting of listed buildings, or the character of a Conservation Area.

General Advertisement Guidance

11.40 The following guidance applies to all applications for advertisement consent:

  • Advertisements/signage should be of a high quality, should respect the form, fabric, design and scale of the host building and/or setting. All signs should serve as an integral part of the immediate surroundings.
  • Advertisement panels and hoardings should generally not be located in a predominantly residential area or street.
  • Advertisements or signs should not obscure or damage existing architectural features.
  • Surplus or redundant existing signs and brackets should be removed.
  • Glossy/shiny materials for advertisements and signage should be avoided. Materials should be in keeping with the locality and harsh colours for signage and lettering is best avoided. Subtle shades are likely to produce a more attractive appearance and will more readily blend with their surroundings.
  • Today, it is not uncommon for multinational and national companies to have a corporate image or branding associated with the business, so they are instantly recognisable to customers. However, designers should be prepared to compromise on matters of corporate design where it would be unsuitable on a particular building or in the street, particularly on a listed building or within a conservation area.

Fascia adverts on shop/business premises

11.41 The fascia sign is arguably the most important aspect of the shopfront in terms of providing an opportunity for the business to display advertising. It should convey the name and nature of the retailer or business, but without detracting from the design and appearance of the shopfront or the building of which it forms a part. Simply stating the name of the business is usually sufficient to provide a clear and effective sign. Extraneous advertising and information on the fascia sign should be avoided.

11.42 The construction or application of the fascia itself and how it integrates with the shopfront is covered in Part 1 and should be read in conjunction with this section. However, in general terms, advertisements should be sited on the original fascia, where they exist, and should have regard to the building's architectural style and detailing. Box fascias or boards not respecting the original size of the fascia on which they are mounted on will not be acceptable.

11.43 Lettering should appear in proportion with the sign and be easily contained within the original fascia size. The choice of lettering in terms of its style/font, size and colour should be influenced by the design of the shopfront, the character and architecture of the building, the type of business and the local character and distinctiveness of the area.

11.44 Traditional shopfronts often encompass a timber fascia sign with hand painted lettering. Where a period shopfront is retained, or is to be reinstated with a timber fascia, lettering should be sign written directly onto the fascia and owners are encouraged to seek the services of a traditional sign writer. Alternatively, individual peg letters on risers could also potentially be appropriate. The use of individual lettering will be strongly encouraged within conservation areas and on listed buildings.

11.45 In the absence of a fascia panel, for example where buildings have been converted from other uses such as banks, it may be appropriate to apply individual letters directly to the wall of the building at fascia level. The height and projection of such letters should be kept to a minimum and the design kept simple.

11.46 Fascia signage should respect and be in keeping with the character of the surrounding area. In Conservation Areas and/or on Listed Buildings or non-designated heritage assets the materials, colour and design of the signage must be appropriate and respect or enhance the building and the area.

Projecting or hanging signs

11.47 Whilst hanging/projecting signs can add interest to the street scene they can cause clutter therefore their use should be controlled. Projecting and hanging signs should be simple and limited to the relevant information relating to the shop/business and the services provided.

11.48 No more than one projecting or hanging sign will be supported on a shop/business frontage and the cumulative effect of signage will be assessed as part of any application. The sign must be of an appropriate scale and be designed to enhance the character of the building and street and should complement existing advertisements on the property. Projecting/hanging signs should be fixed below the level of the first floor windowsills where they will not obscure or conflict with existing architectural details.

11.49 Projecting box signs are unsightly and are generally resisted.

11.50 The style of any supporting brackets should also reflect the character of the building. In cases where an original or traditional style ornamental bracket remains these should be repaired.

11.51 Internal illumination to projecting/hanging signs is unlikely to be supported, especially in conservation areas and/or on listed buildings. In conservation areas and/or on listed buildings the design should be traditional with materials and colours appropriate for the setting. The scale and size of the projecting sign should be proportionate to the building and not overly dominant.

Advertising on street furniture

11.52 Signs on street furniture will only be accepted where they would not create or contribute to visual and physical clutter or hinder movement along the pavement or pedestrian footway.

11.53 Recently more advertisements have been displayed on screens/partitions enclosing outdoor seating areas. Such partitions should be simple in design and any advertising should relate to the services and/or name of the business to which it relates. Lettering and logos should be discrete to avoid the proliferation of signage within the area.

Free standing advertisements and temporary advertising

a) Advance directional advertisements

11.54 The Council is concerned at the proliferation of the display of poorly designed and located advance directional advertisements, particularly in open countryside and adjacent to major highway routes. These signs attempt to draw attention to the provision of goods and services but often harm the amenity of those areas where they are sited, especially in the countryside. Such signage also has the potential to create a hazard for highway users. Accordingly the Council will only grant express consent for the display of advance directional advertisements where it is satisfied that they:

  • do not have a detrimental impact on the amenity or character of an area;
  • do not create a hazard to public safety by reason of distracting road users;
  • do not resemble, and are not likely to be confused with, traffic signs; and
  • are sympathetically located to complement existing features including landscape and buildings.

b) A-boards, free standing flags and other items displayed on the highway

11.55 Such adverts/displays are often located on or adjacent to footpaths or paved areas, which is usually within the highway. The display of advertisements on adopted highway requires consent from the Local Highway Authority, Leicestershire County Council. If approved by the Highway Authority such signage may also require separate advertisement consent from Harborough District Council.

11.56 The Council does not seek to promote the use of A-Boards or any other stand-alone methods of advertisement which gives rise to the sense of clutter and which detracts from the general amenity of the locality. Equally, the use of stand-alone advertising which prevents an obstacle for pedestrians and other road users will not be supported by the Council.

11.57 Where such signage is proposed the Council would consider its design and appearance in relation to individual shop units, other commercial premises as well as the street/surrounding area and other signage in the vicinity. Proposals which are considering the use of A-Boards or any other sort of stand-alone advertising will be encouraged to think of alternative types of advertising methods which do not have as significant impact on local amenity.

c) Banner adverts

11.58 Typically banner adverts are displayed for temporary periods and used to draw the public's attention to a new developments/works, retail sales and/or special events. However, they can often be visually intrusive, need to be sensitively located and should be removed promptly following the temporary period.

11.59 Generally the use of advertisement banners will not be supported, except where banner advertisements are for temporary periods to draw attention to specific events or activities taking place across the District. The siting of advertisement banners upon listed buildings and in Conservation Areas however will be resisted.

11.60 In order to ensure that public and highway safety is safeguarded there is a legal requirement to ensure that all banner signs are securely fixed.

Digital adverts

11.61 Digital advertisements, which can also be referred to as digital screens or digital billboards, can project video but are often used to show a still image or to cycle through a number of still images.

11.62 Digital advertisements are by design visually prominent and attention grabbing with their illuminated images, especially when they are large in size. Whilst such adverts will be assessed against the general advertisement guidance above they are generally not suitable for locating within conservation areas, predominantly residential areas, areas with a uniform heritage character or near listed buildings, where the advertisement could become the most prominent feature of the street scene and in locations which may distract highway users.


11.63 Illumination can be used to light advertisements or buildings themselves. Careful thought should be given to the need for illumination both in well-lit areas where lights are rarely required, as well as in rural locations where illumination can be highly visible and out of keeping with the character of rural areas. Lighting can also add clutter to a building during the day.

11.64 Where lighting is needed it should be provided in as discrete a manner as possible and the illumination should reflect the character of the building and area. Illumination should be low-key, not overly dominant or too bright, stationary and not harm visual amenity. Illuminated signs should not be flashing or intermittent, whether internal or external.

11.65 Externally illuminated signs are preferred but such lighting should be unobtrusively sized and sited. Spotlights and shallow trough lights offer a discrete way to illuminate signage and buildings but should be fixed and sized as discreetly as possible.

11.66 Internal illumination should be avoided, especially in Conservation Areas, and will not be acceptable on Listed Buildings. The most acceptable way of internally illuminating signage and advertisements is by internally illuminating the letters or characters rather than their background.

11.67 Within Conservation Areas and for any purpose associated with Listed Buildings, it may be difficult to accommodate the illumination of signs in a sympathetic way. Non-illuminated signs are considered most appropriate.


Would you like to make any comments in relation to Section 11? Please quote relevant paragraph numbers in your response.

If you are having trouble using the system, please try our help guide.
back to top back to top