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Equality and diversity

Current policy on Dual Language Street Signs

Published in November 2021


1.0 Legislation
2.0 Introduction
3.0 Procedure
4.0 Adoption by the council
Diagram of current process for dual language street signage

1.0     Legislation

The statutory basis for this function is contained within Article 11 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Northern Ireland) Order 1995. This Order commenced on 15 March 1995, it provides for street naming, street numbering and the provision of street signs. It also gives councils the discretionary power to erect dual language street signs or secondary nameplates in a language other than English.

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2.0     Introduction

The legislation requires the council, in deciding whether and how to exercise its discretion to erect a street name in a language other than English, to take account of the views of the occupiers of premises in the street. 

For the purposes of this policy occupiers shall be taken to be any person whose name appears in the current Electoral Register plus the owners or tenants in actual possession of commercial premises, but not employees in such premises.

These policy proposals were developed in close consultation with the Director of Legal Services and are designed to promote consistent and reasonable responses. However, the policy should not be applied in such a way as to prevent due consideration being given to the particular circumstances of each application. Having regard to the significant resource consequences of administering the implications of the policy, the policy should be reactive in nature.

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3.0     Procedure

The procedures for seeking and assessing the views of occupiers and the criteria to be applied in deciding whether to erect a street sign in a language other than English are as follows:

(i) Only applications supported by a petition representing not less than one third of the people appearing on the Electoral Register of the street for which the application is made will be progressed. 

(ii) Where the foregoing requirements have been met, the council will canvass by post all people appearing on the Electoral Register of that street and seek their views on the request to erect a street sign in a second specified language.  This letter is designed so as to make the expression of views as simple as possible.  Reply will be by way of a pre-paid envelope and should be returned within one month of receipt.

(iii) Where two thirds or more of the occupiers appearing on the Electoral Register have indicated that they are in favour of the erection of a second language street sign, then such a sign will be erected.  People not returning a reply will be deemed not to be in favour of the application.

(iv) Consideration will to be given to "long streets" where majority opinion on whether to have a second language street sign may differ between readily identifiable, substantial lengths of the street.  In these circumstances consideration will be given to the erection of dual language nameplates in those substantial portions of the street where the required majority of occupiers have expressed a wish for such a nameplate.

(v) When a decision has been taken to erect a street sign in a second language the translation from English to that second language will be carried out by an independent, competent Body such as the appropriate language department at Queen's University.

(vi) With regard to the design and placing of the street signs the second language sign shall be located immediately below the English sign and the size of lettering shall be smaller than the English version to avoid any risk of confusion to the emergency services.

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4.0     Adoption by the council

This policy was adopted by the council on 1 September 1998.

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Diagram of current process for dual language street signage

Diagram showing current process for dual language street signage in Belfast

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