1. Introduction
  2. Locations
  3. Planning your project
  4. Applying for Planning Permission
  5. Managing and implementing your project



1. Introduction

Artists and arts organisations sometimes want to show works of art in temporary exhibitions outdoors, in public open spaces.

In recent years there have been several successful exhibitions of this kind in Bath such as King Bladud’s Pigs (2008), Lions of Bath (2010), and Art at the Edge (2012).

This page explains the issues which you will need to consider, and the planning application process.  Some projects will require planning permission, others will not.  You should read through the advice on this page, and check if planning permission is required, before committing time and resources to planning your project.

Temporary exhibitions are a great way of reaching a large number of people, including those who would not normally go to an art gallery.  

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2. Locations

Parks are public open spaces used for recreation, and are owned and maintained by Bath & North East Somerset Council.  Trees, shrubs, and flowers in parks make them attractive spaces to walk and sit, providing restful and calming green spaces within an urban area.

Squares and paved areas
Examples: areas of Bath such as Kingston Parade, Abbey Churchyard, Queen Square, and Kingsmead Square; areas in the centre of Keynsham, Midsomer Norton, and Radstock.
These are public open spaces and are owned and maintained by Bath & North East Somerset Council.  Most of these spaces have benches which encourage people to sit and enjoy their surroundings, but they are also busy pedestrian routes.

Privately-owned spaces
Other open spaces in the district are owned by organisations other than the Council.    Examples: grassed area off Beauford Square, Bath is owned by St John’s Hospital Trust; SouthGate shopping centre in Bath is owned by British Land & Aviva Investors and is managed by SouthGate Bath.

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3. Planning your project

a) Budget

The cost of your project will depend on its scale and complexity, and the number of individual pieces to be exhibited.  There are a number of costs associated with outdoor exhibitions which are additional to what you would expect for a gallery exhibition.  The budget will need to include:

  • Building surveyor fee (for professional advice on structural matters and weightings)
  • Planning advice and planning application fees
  • Public liability insurance
  • Artists’ fees
  • Transportation costs and associated labour
  • Installation and take-down costs (including extras such as power-lifts or cherry-pickers) and associated labour
  • Plinths or other bases or fixings
  • Cleansing and maintenance
  • Marketing and promotion

b) Timescales

It is advisable to allow at least 9 months from starting the planning of your project to the date that you want the exhibition to open.  A suggested timescale would be:

  • Month 1 & 2
    8 weeks for project planning and preparation; consultation; planning advice
    Allowing yourself more time at this stage is always useful.
  • Month 3
    4 weeks to prepare and write planning application
  • Month 4, 5 & 6
    12 weeks for planning application to be considered
  • Month 7, 8 & 9
    12 weeks to organise the exhibition

c) Land-owner permissions

When considering the locations that you may want to use, it is advisable to find out the owners of the site and to contact them with a general enquiry before proceeding to make any firm plans.

You will need to make an application for planning permission (see next section) and before doing this you will need to have obtained the permission of all the land-owners to use their site. 

d) Artistic content and quality

Your planning application will be determined on the basis of:

  • the size and mass of the pieces in relation to the surrounding built environment; their locations
  • technical qualities of materials
  • the extent to which the pieces pose any health & safety risk or hazard 

The planning process does not concern itself with artistic matters: the names and track record of the artists, and the potential impact and influence of the exhibition in artistic terms, are irrelevant to the planning application.

The only matter which could be considered is that of ‘taste and decency’.  When art is shown in an art gallery, visitors can choose whether or not to enter and the gallery can display notices if a work may cause offence to some people.  But in an outdoor public space, people cannot choose whether or not they see the work.  In selecting your exhibition, it is therefore advisable to remember that it will be seen by both adults and children, and to ask yourself whether some content may be unsuitable for viewing by children.

The independent media regulator OFCOM defines images or content which offend against ‘taste and decency’ as:

anything which offends … or is likely to encourage or incite to crime or to lead to disorder or to be offensive to public feeling

Some pieces of work may require on-site interpretation or information if the artist’s intention could be misunderstood.

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4. Applying for Planning Permission

Temporary exhibitions of public art require planning permission.  You will need to make one application listing all the pieces in your exhibition.

a) Information needed prior to application

  • Dates/duration of exhibition
  • Sites to be used
  • Permission of land-owners (in writing)
  • Evidence of need/demand and endorsement or support for the exhibition
  • Evidence of consultation with people and organisations who may be adversely affected.  This includes local residents and local shops and businesses
  • Evidence that the selected locations are structurally suitable to bear the weight of the pieces (building surveyor advice required)
  • Scale maps or plans showing locations
  • Public liability insurance
  • Size (height, width, depth) of each piece (if not known, state maximum)
  • Weight of each piece (if not known, state maximum)
  • Materials of each piece (if not known, state typical materials)
  • Cleansing/maintenance plan for each piece

b) Advice session

It is advisable to contact for an advice session prior to making an application for planning permission.  For further information see the Before you Apply page on the Council website.

c) Making the application

The Planning Portal website Apply for Planning Permission includes guidance and the fees payable.  After submitting your application, it can take up to 12 weeks to hear whether or not it is successful.

d) Components of the planning application

  • Application form
  • Design and Access statement
  • Scale maps and plans
  • Images and visualisations
  • Certification of ownership of land
  • Planning fee

The Design and Access statement should address the following issues:

  • Design quality and artistic quality
  • Appropriateness of the exhibition in relation to the surrounding built environment and landscape (for example: Will it interfere with people’s enjoyment of the space?)
  • For Bath exhibitions: consideration of the World Heritage Site values
  • Cleansing and maintenance
  • Suitability and robustness of materials
  • Risk assessment and risk management (for example: Do the works of art constitute a trip hazard? Will they be liable to be vandalised or tagged?)

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5. Managing and implementing your project

Once you have gained planning permission, it is advisable to again contact all the land-owners of your selected sites to ensure that they are still happy to host one of the pieces.

If installation and take-down are complex, it is best to contact all businesses and land-owners liable to be affected, describing what you are proposing to do, and giving them at least seven days’ notice.

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