Patriotic Britons fly flags to express joy and pride. But, you must follow flag flying regulations to avoid breaking the law in Britain.
UK FLAG FLYING PROTOCOL: The Government regulates the standard rules and instructions for flying ensigns.
That includes the Union Flag - also called the Union Jack Flag - and three other national flags of England, Scotland, and Wales.
Flag Flying Conditions
The wide range of large advertising flag banners are emotive symbols. They get used to boost local and national identities. Flag flying also helps to strengthen community cohesion.
The UK government made several law changes to flag flying regulations in 2012. Nowadays, British controls over flag etiquette have become much more liberalized since.
Nonetheless, some official commemorative events and celebratory situations still require formal consent from the local planning authority. Yet, the proper protocol for other circumstances means permission is not needed.
The UK Rules for Flying Flags are subject to some standard conditions. All flags must:
Be properly maintained and kept in a safe condition. They should not impair the overall visual appearance of the site. Planning authorities must use due care when removing any flags.
Have permission from the owner of any site on which they get displayed. That includes the Highway Authority if it gets placed on highway land.
Not obscure (or hinder) the interpretation of official road, rail, waterway or aircraft signs. They must not create a hazardous situation relating to the use of these types of transport.
Following the compliance with these standard conditions there are 3 different categories of consent for flag flying:
Flags which can be flown without consent of the local planning authority.
Flags which do not need consent provided they comply with further restrictions (deemed consent).
Flags which require consent (express consent).
1. Flags Not Requiring Consent
The recent law amendments and changes in regulations allow for a wider range of national, sub-national, community, and international flags. The full list that does not require consent includes:
The flag of Saint David.
The flag of Saint Patrick.
The flag of any administrative area within any country outside the United Kingdom.
Any flag of Her Majesty's forces.
The Armed Forces Day flag.
Any country’s national flag, civil ensign, or civil air ensign.
The flag of the Commonwealth, the European Union, the United Nations, or any other international organisation of which the United Kingdom is a member.
A flag of any island, county, district, borough, burgh, parish, city, town or village within the United Kingdom.
The flag of the Black Country, East Anglia, Wessex, any Part of Lincolnshire, any Riding of Yorkshire, or any historic county within the United Kingdom.
The above flags or their flagpoles must not display any advertisement or subject matter in addition to the design of the flag.
New regulations now allow the attachment of a black mourning ribbon to either the flag or flagpole. This applies to those which be flown at half-mast such as those projecting at an angle from the side of a building.
Use of the word 'country' in the list includes any of the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, and any British Overseas Territory.
The flags of St George and St Andrew are the recognized national flags of England and Scotland. But, the flags of St David and St Patrick get listed separately as they do not necessarily fall into the category of a country's national flag.
2. Flags Not Requiring Consent (with restrictions)
Most categories of flag may be flown without consent subject to certain restrictions. This refers to the size, the size of characters on it, the number of flags, and their location. Categories of flags that can now be flown include:
House flags can display the name, emblem, device or trademark of the company (or person) occupying the building. It can also refer to a specific event of limited duration that is taking place in the building from which the flag is flown.
Any sports club (but cannot include sponsorship logos).
The horizontal striped rainbow flag, such as the 'Pride' Flag.
Specified award schemes (e.g. Eco-Schools, Queens Awards for Enterprise and Investors in People).
Note: Flag flying regulations in this category relate to the flagpole or flagstaff. There are some restrictions for its fixing point or the location within the grounds or garden of a building.
UK Flag Rules: Flagpoles Planning Permission
Vertical Flagpole Planning Permission
Flying a flag on a vertical flag pole from the roof of a building:
Planning permissions allow one (1) flag attached to a vertical flagpole on the roof of a building.
There are no specific restrictions on the size of the banner flown on a vertical flag pole UK.
There are no restrictions on the size of any character or symbol displayed. An exception could be where it gets flown within an area of outstanding natural beauty. Areas of 'special control' include the Broads, a conservation area, or a National Park. In this case, the characters may be no more than 0.75 meter in height (0.3 meter in height in an area of special control).
Permissions allow one (1) flag flying on a vertical flagpole on the roof of a building and one (1) flag within the grounds or gardens of the building without consent (subject to standard restrictions). But, you need consent to have one on a projecting flagpole and another on a vertical roof top flagpole.
Projecting Flagpole Planning Permission
Flying a flag on a flag pole projecting from any part of a building other than the roof (e.g. projecting from the side of the building).
Planning permission allows one (1) flag on a projecting flagpole on a building. In this case, it may not exceed 2 square meters in size.
There are no specific restrictions on the size of any displayed characters.
You would need consent to erect a flagpole in a controlled area. The same rules apply to have one on a projecting flagpole and another on a vertical roof top flagpole.
UK Flag Rules: Multiple Flags
You can now fly up to two flags (2) within the grounds of a building. The rules used to allow only one (1) before the changes. These new flag flying regulations refer to 'curtilage'. But, they are subject to these conditions:
There are no restrictions on the size of the flag. But, any flagpole used may not exceed 4.6 meters above the ground level. You would need consent for displaying them in a controlled area.
Up to two flags can be flown without consent in the grounds of a building. But only one flag can be flown within the gardens of a building if another flag is either being flown from the roof. The same applies if it is projecting from the building.
Flag Location Options Summary
Vertical Flagpole on the Roof: Allows one (1) additional flagpole in the grounds of the building.
Projecting Flagpole from the Building: Allows one (1) additional flagpole in the grounds of the building.
In the Grounds of the Building: Allows one (1) additional flag (either a vertical flagpole on the roof of the building or a projecting flagpole attached to the building or flagpole in the grounds of the building).
Green and Blue Environmental Award Scheme Flags
Rule changes allow the emblem of the Blue Flag award scheme to be flown from a flagpole on part of a beach or marina. The same applies to the Green Flag Award scheme or Green Flag Community Award scheme allowing it to be flown on part of a park, in a garden, or other green space.
3. Flags Requiring Consent
To avoid breaking the law, any flag which is not identified above requires express consent from the local planning authority before it may be flown.
Note: Contact the local planning authority for guidance on the consent required for flying a flag in Great Britain.
Flag Flying Regulations: Flagpole Planning Permission in the United Kingdom