Public Health Act 1925 (1925 Act)




All local authorities in England exercising district council functions (but excluding London Boroughs) and all 22 local authorities in Wales, provided that they have elected to use the 1925 Act in accordance with the 1972 Act and save where a Local Act is in place.



Section 8: “Where any enactment in this Act provides for an appeal to a petty sessional court against a notice, determination, requirement, order or intended order of a local authority under this Act -

(1) Notice in writing of the appeal and of the grounds thereof shall be given by the appellant to the proper officer of the authority;

(2) The court may make such order in the matter as they consider reasonable, and may award costs to be recoverable as a civil debt;

(3) No proceeding shall be taken by the local authority, or work executed, until after the determination or abandonment of the appeal;

(4) Notice of the right of appeal shall be endorsed on the order of the local authority and on any notice communicating their determination, requirement or intended order.”

The Public Health Act 1925 appears to be the first attempt to implement a comprehensive regime on street naming. 

Section 17: “(1) Before any street is given a name, notice of the proposed name shall be sent to the urban authority by the person proposing to name the street.

(2) The urban authority, within one month after the receipt of such notice, may, by notice in writing served on the person by whom notice of the proposed name of the street was sent, object to the proposed name.

(3) It shall not be lawful to set up in any street an inscription of the name thereof—

(a) until the expiration of one month after notice of the proposed name has been sent to the urban authority under this section; and;

(b) where the urban authority have objected to the proposed name, unless and until such objection has been withdrawn by the urban authority or overruled on appeal;

and any person acting in contravention of this provision shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding level 1 on the standard scale and to a daily penalty not exceeding £1.

(4) Where the urban authority serve a notice of objection under this section, the person proposing to name the street may, within twenty-one days after the service of the notice, appeal against the objection to a petty sessional court.”

Section 17 applies where there is a new street that does not have a previous name.  The proposed name is to be submitted to the authority and the authority has a period of one month to object to the name. 

Section 18: “(1) The urban authority by order may alter the name of any street, or part of a street, or may assign a name to any street, or part of a street, to which a name has not been given.

(2) Not less than one month before making an order under this section, the urban authority shall cause notice of the intended order to be posted at each end of the street, or part of the street, or in some conspicuous position in the street or part affected.

(3) Every such notice shall contain a statement that the intended order may be made by the urban authority on or at any time after the day named in the notice, and that an appeal will lie under this Act to a petty sessional court against the intended order at the instance of any person aggrieved.

(4) Any person aggrieved by the intended order of the local authority may, within twenty-one days after the posting of the notice, appeal to a petty sessional court.”

Section 18 applies: where a street has already been named - whether that is in accordance with section 17 or the law preceding this Act - the authority is able to alter the name by order; and where a street has no name then the authority may by order give it a name.

The latter situation is likely to arise where either no nominated name has been received under section 17, or a name has been nominated but the authority has objected and either the nominee has not appealed or has appealed and been unsuccessful. 

In either scenario, the authority must advertise the proposed street name for a period of one month prior to issuing the order. 

Section 19: “(1) The urban authority shall cause the name of every street to be painted, or otherwise marked, in a conspicuous position on any house, building or erection in or near the street, and shall from time to time alter or renew such inscription of the name of any street, if and when the name of the street is altered or the inscription becomes illegible.

(2) If any person [...] pulls down [...] any inscription of the name of a street which has lawfully been set up, or sets up in any street any name different from the name lawfully given to the street, or places or affixes any notice or advertisement within twelve inches of any name of a street marked on a house, building, or erection in pursuance of this section, he shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding level 1 on the standard scale and to a daily penalty not exceeding £1.”

Parts I, II (where the sections above are), VI and VIII of the 1925 Act can be construed as one with the Public Health Acts 1875 to 1907 and they are all cited together as the Public Health Acts 1875 to 1925.

The 1925 Act does not apply in Scotland or Northern Ireland.

Section 19 imposes a duty on the authority to cause the name of every street to be marked and there is a further offence for anyone who interferes with the street name or places any notice or advertisement within twelve inches of a street name. 

All of the Public Health Acts are in effect construed together. It is unclear how the power under Section 18 to alter a street name was (at the time) intended to sit alongside the power under Section 21 of the 1907 Act.  The modern position is governed by the Local Government Act 1972 for which see further below. 

The 1925 Act was discussed in brief in the case of Re Reid’s Application for Judicial Review [2014] MIQB 129 (QBD (NI).  However, this case is principally concerned with the Northern Ireland legislation on street naming/numbering and not the legislation applying in England and Wales.

The case of Agnew and Stockton on Tees Corporation [1968] CLY 1767 confirms that Section 19(1) imposes a duty on the authority and there is necessary implication that a local authority must have the powers to carry out all that is reasonably necessary for the performance of the duty imposed under Section 19.  The authority must show that it carried out those duties without negligence and in good faith and that subject to the authority showing that is the case the Court cannot interfere in the performance of the duty.  The Claimants in this case had sought damages for trespass and an injunction when the authority affixed a name plate to the front wall of a bungalow.  In respect of damages the court held that the right to compensation is restricted to that provided for in the legislation.  This case is unreported but we have considered the case summary/head note produced at the time.  We do not consider that this case is authority that the 1925 Act authorises an authority to undertake street numbering.

We would note that the position on necessary powers is now governed by Section 111, Local Government Act 1972 – “a local authority shall have power to do anything (whether or not involving the expenditure, borrowing or lending of money or the acquisition or disposal of any property or rights) which is calculated to facilitate, or is conducive or incidental to, the discharge of any of their functions”.

The case of Basildon Borough Council v James [2015] EWHC 3365 (Admin) deals with the approach that an appeal Court should take in respect of Section 18(4) (and the connected Section 8 which deals with appeals).  The council proposed to rename streets as part of a redevelopment and residents objected and took the matter to the magistrates’ court.  The court found against the council.  On appeal, the High Court found that the options open to a Judge hearing the appeal are wide but they only apply where the Judge is satisfied that the appellant has shown that the authority’s decision on the facts was wrong.  The burden is not on the authority to show that its decision was right.  Where the Court does find that the authority’s decision was wrong then the Judge can exercise his or her powers under Section 8.

The term Urban Authority is not defined in the legislation.  However, the Local Government Act 1972 (below) deals with the modern application of the 1925 Act and in particular Sections 180(1) and (3) provide that the local authority and sanitary authority (whether urban or not) under the Public Health Acts 1875-1925 shall be (as applicable), the district council, the relevant London borough council, or the relevant Welsh county/county borough council.