Signage regulation in corporate plans

Why this is important

The regulation of signage can affect the desire to purchase fast food. Alcohol advertising has been removed from sporting events and the advertising of cigarettes removed from television and sporting events. Today, there is ongoing community debate about advertising unhealthy foods during children’s television programs.

There are many national and international studies in support of this including, Health Determinants Queensland 2004(3), Regulating Environments to Reduce Obesity(4) and Food Marketing to Children and Youth: Threat or Opportunity?.(5) These studies highlight the need for government policy changes combined with action by the media and advertising industry to address the impact advertising has on food choice and food consumption patterns.

Current Department of Infrastructure and Planning policy is that advertising signage is controlled by local government planning schemes, rather than local laws. Where a council’s first planning scheme does not address advertising devices, the local law will remain the regulatory tool until the council prepares its subsequent planning scheme. Accordingly, some councils regulate signage through local laws, while others use the planning scheme. This section has relevance to both approaches. While it is difficult to regulate the content of advertising, local government can regulate the:

  • location, including on-site signage, billboards, identilights, bus shelters and street furniture
  • dimensions, including height
  • level of illumination
  • construction materials
  • type of sign

A simple approach to influence the advertising of fast food is to restrict the allowable height of billboards and freestanding signs (such as pylon signs) and prohibit illuminated signs (including identilights on street corners). Such policy positions may have an impact on fast-food advertising and may also influence the forms of fast food restaurants built, as in the case of McDonalds Family Restaurants versus Douglas Shire Council.(1) Advertising that promotes fruit and vegetable consumption could be exempt from tighter advertising restrictions.(2)

McDonalds Family Restaurants versus Douglas Shire Council(1)

The Douglas Shire Council was taken to court by McDonalds Family Restaurants after the Council rejected part of McDonalds development proposal, as the construction of the “golden arches” illuminated sign would have been in breach of Council’s regulations concerning illuminated signs.

The Council does not allow illuminated signage as it wants to prevent the neon effect caused by such lighting in order to maintain the character of the area for its residents and the many tourists that are attracted to this area.

The court upheld the judgement to not allow McDonalds to erect its trademark signage. McDonalds elected not to develop a restaurant in Port Douglas.


Review the planning scheme for opportunities to limit signage associated with unhealthy eating, such as identilights, billboards and pylon signs, bus shelters and street furniture and make appropriate amendments.


  1. Queensland Health, Central Area Population Health Services 2006, Creating Supportive Environments for Healthy Eating, Queensland Health, Maroochydore.
  2. Turrell, G. 2003, The Brisbane Food Study: A Multi-level and Spatial investigation of socio-economic differences in food purchasing behaviour, Queensland University of Technology, School of Public Health, Brisbane.
  3. Queensland Health 2004, Health Determinants Queensland 2004, Queensland Health, Brisbane.
  4. Hayne, C.L., Moran, P.A. and Ford, M.M. 2004, ‘Regulating Environments to Reduce Obesity’, Journal of Public Health Policy, vol. 25, pp. 391-407.
  5. Institute of Medicine of the National Academies 2005, Overview of the IOM Report on Food Marketing to Children and Youth: Threat or Opportunity?, [Online] Available at: