Policy statement

We support tourism in Dorset by installing suitable signs that guide those wishing to visit a recognised tourist destination along the most appropriate route. These signs are not intended to be advertisements. Different requirements will apply to tourist destinations in urban and rural locations and the decision to install signs will be at our discretion. The applicant is liable for all costs associated with the signing, including design and administration fees and future maintenance.

Policy objectives

  • to aid the journeys of those wishing to visit a tourist destination by guiding them along the most appropriate route
  • to ensure that signing is of a scale and quality in keeping with the environment
  • to ensure that sign content is consistent and appropriate in line with national guidance
  • to supplement a tourist destination’s marketing initiatives
  • to ensure that all costs associated with tourism sign applications are recovered
  • to minimise risk of discrimination against any equality group when tourism signs are placed on the highway

Key influences

  • economic – to aid tourism in Dorset
  • environmental – to ensure that tourism signing is in keeping with the environment – especially in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Heritage Coast and conservation areas
  • traffic Management – to aid the smooth flow of traffic to tourist destinations
  • Traffic Signs Regulations & General Directions 2002
  • Equalities Act 2010

Legal basis

There is no statutory duty to erect Tourism Signs. Section 65 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 gives the council (as Highway Authority) the power to erect signs which are specified in the Traffic Sign Regulations and General Direction 2002 as amended. This power must be exercised in accordance with the Highway Authority's duty to protect the rights and safety of members of the public using the highway.

Definitions and scope

Tourism signs are traffic signs and, as such, their purpose is to guide those wishing to visit a tourist destination along the most appropriate route. The signs are not intended as advertisements, although they may be helpful in supplementing a tourist destination’s marketing initiatives.

For the purposes of this policy a tourist destination is defined as a permanently established destination or facility which attracts visitors to an area and which is open to the public without prior booking during its normal opening.

The definition of normal opening hours in this policy is at least four hours per day, 100 days a year except where otherwise stated as tourists would normally expect to find a signed destination open.

Inclusions (Tourist destinations)

  • attractions – e.g. theme parks, historic houses, museums, zoos, leisure complexes
  • facilities – e.g. serviced accommodation, pubs, restaurants, cafés, shops, cinemas/theatres, sport and leisure facilities
  • touring and caravan parks
  • leisure drives
  • local services –e.g. tourism information points

Detailed criteria relating to each of these categories is contained in the tourism signing requirements document.

Note: Dorset Council will normally provide and erect tourism signing for recognised tourist information points and centres, picnic sites, viewpoints, lay-by amenities, scenic drives and recreational cycle routes.

Implementation of pedestrian signing schemes will also be considered by Dorset Council.

Only one symbol will normally be allocated, except attractions with tent and caravan facilities where two may be permitted. Existing tourism signs that do not meet the current policy criteria may be retained for the duration of their useful life (which is normally around 10 years from new).

Exclusions (Tourist Destinations)

  • destinations located on trunk roads (ie the A31 and A35) and requests in this instance should be referred to Highways England
  • destinations located on A and B roads.

Outline of process

Requests for tourism signing will be managed in three stages:

Assessment of Application and Detailed Design

The council encourages potential applicants to discuss their case with Dorset Council initially to assess the general viability of the application.

If the application appears to meet the broad criteria, prospective applicants will be required to submit a completed application form and supporting information for assessment. This will result in a definitive response as well as an indication of a likely programme for implementation and probable costs.

Note: The time taken to process such applications may vary depending on the complexity of the application and the availability of resources. Every case is different and other work may take precedence over tourism sign applications, so some applications can take months rather than weeks.

If an application for signing is rejected, in full or in part, the applicant will be given a detailed explanation of the reason for this decision.

Approval for signs will depend on whether the authority agrees that they will be helpful for road safety or traffic management reasons. This in turn will depend on factors such as the amount of existing signing on the roads in question. The decision on signing is entirely at the discretion of the local authority. Eligibility does not confer automatic entitlement to brown signs.

The initial assessment will include detailed design of the signing scheme, including an estimation of costs for the provision and erection of signs, and production of necessary documents.

Note: A fixed, non-refundable charge will be made by the council for processing the initial application regardless of whether the application is accepted or rejected; or whether the applicant chooses to proceed or not. This is made clear on the application form and agreement should be signed by the applicant.

Provision of signs

Signs can be supplied and installed by the council.

A fee will be charged by the council for this work. The supply and installation of signs will not normally be undertaken until the associated costs have been received by the council.

Alternatively, with the approval of the council, applicants may arrange for signs to be supplied and installed by approved Contractors to the specifications and requirements laid down by the council. Installation shall only be carried out under council supervision and by an approved contractor with public liability insurance cover of at least £5m.

A fee will be charged by the council to supervise this work. Where more than one destination is included on a sign(s), the cost of the assembly will be shared among the applicants. Should an applicant choose not to proceed the cost will be reapportioned between the remaining applicants. It will be necessary to identify a single person or body who will be responsible for signing the agreement.


All future maintenance costs will be met by the applicant. These include cleaning, replacement and repair of fixings, replacement of signs following accidental damage, theft, general deterioration and removal of signs where the attraction or facility has ceased to meet the standards under which the signs were provided.

Note: A fee will be charged by the council for this work. The cost of replacing any signs due to damage or theft, except where the council can make claims against known third party insurance, will be met by the applicant. Applicants are strongly urged to insure themselves against this eventuality.

The cost of amending existing signing to add new destinations will be met by the applicant for the new destination.

The useful life of a sign is in the region of 10 years. The applicant will be required to meet the cost of replacement signs in due course.

Applicants may choose not to meet the cost of replacement, in which case the sign will not be replaced.

Regardless of who meets the cost of the signing, all signs remain the property of the council. Signs may be removed if the criteria for signing cease to be met, or relocated if changes in signing are required for road safety or traffic management reasons.

Measures of effectiveness


  • number of complaints/comments associated with tourism signing
  • number of enquiries relating to tourism signs
  • efficiency of cost recovery for administration, design and maintenance of tourism signs
  • records that demonstrate consistent application of this policy across the county

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