Oxfordshire County Council logo

Direction signs on public highways

How we decide when and where to put up direction signs on public highways.

How we decide where to put signs

Clear, concise signs do an important job guiding traffic and improving road safety by pointing out junctions and easing uncertainty about the route to follow. A signpost with too many destinations will become confusing.

Signs should not be added piecemeal to a signpost as this obstructs lines of sight, can detract from road safety and damage the environment of our towns, villages and countryside. Our policies include careful consideration of these issues to limit the impact of 'signs clutter'.

Signs to where?

Our policy is to consider local direction signs (where there is a demonstrable need) to the following:

  • Colleges and schools
  • Public libraries
  • Government offices
  • Hospitals
  • Police stations
  • Assembly halls
  • Toilets
  • Bus/rail stations and airports
  • Cemeteries and crematoria
  • Churches and chapels
  • Ministry of Defence establishments
  • Shopping areas located away from main through traffic routes

We may consider other destinations for local direction signs on their individual merits as public amenities or where, in our judgement, good road safety and traffic management reasons exist.

Traffic signs are not advertisements and cannot include commercial names or legends.

Tourist signs

Applications for the familiar brown tourist signs are considered by us on the basis of their necessity (not the Tourist Board).

Street nameplates

To report a damaged, missing or illegible street name plate, please contact your local district council:

Neighbourhood Watch signs

To put up a sign you need to be an 'approved' Neighbourhood Watch scheme (or Homewatch, Crimewatch, Farmwatch or Industrial Watch scheme) set up jointly with the Police. You need to decide where you want to put the signs, but must meet the following rules:

You can put signs on:

  • concrete and steel lamp columns that we (the county council) own
  • posts which also hold village nameplate signs
  • private land where they can be put on posts, walls and fencing with permission from the landowner.

You can't put signs on:

  • any traffic signs or posts
  • any traffic signal
  • telegraph/telephone poles (unless you have written permission from BT)
  • electricity poles or wooden lamp columns (unless you have written permission from the Electricity Company).

Signs on private land

If you can't find a suitable place for a sign on any of the above, it should be put on posts, walls or fencing on private land. You will need permission from the landowner and may have to pay any costs.

The sign should be no bigger than 0.2 square metres (18 x 18 inches). Bigger signs will need planning permission from the district council.

Supply and maintenance

The Watch Scheme must provide the signs and fix them securely. You are advised to buy signs from a reputable manufacturer (the police will supply a list).

  • Signs should not look like traffic signs.
  • The number of signs should be kept to a minimum.
  • Signs should be at least 2.1 metres above a footpath or grass verge (to allow enough headroom) but not more than 3.6 metres above the ground.
  • Schemes will be responsible for maintaining/replacing their signs where necessary.


All signs must be covered by insurance for third party liability which indemnifies us (Oxfordshire County Council) for at least £10,000,000 for each claim.

Some schemes have already taken up group insurance. For details contact your Area Neighbourhood Watch Scheme Co-ordinator.

How to apply

If you have met all the above conditions, write with your request to our Highway Enquiries Team. We will consider the application and let you know the result.

  • If you get a letter of consent, you should send it, with details of where the signs will go, to your local district council's Planning department, 14 days before any signs are put up (you can find contact details on the websites listed below).
  • If either we or the police withdraw approval, or the Watch Scheme ceases to operate, the signs must be removed within 14 days.
  • Any signs put up on the public highway without our permission will be removed and any costs incurred charged to the offender.