Sex shop licence

A sex shop licence is required for any premises, vehicle, vessel or stall used for a business which consists to a significant degree of selling, hiring, exchanging, lending, display or demonstrating sex articles.

A sex article is defined as:

  • Anything intended for use in connection with, or for the purpose of stimulating or encouraging sexual activity, acts of force or restraint which are associated with sexual activity
  • Any article containing or embodying matter to be read or looked at or anything intended to be used, either alone or as one of a set, for the reproduction or manufacture of any such article
  • Any recording of vision or sound which is concerned primarily with the portrayal of, or primarily deals with or relates to, or is intended to stimulate or encourage, sexual activity or acts of force or restraint which as associated with sexual activity

It does not include any articles which are manufactured for use primarily for the purposes of birth control or which primarily relate to birth control.

Licences are granted for a maximum period of 12 months.

A sex shop licence is not required for any premises, vehicle, vessel or stall used only for the exhibition of moving pictures by whatever means produced.


We may impose conditions on the licence, including conditions (PDF 49.8KB) relating to the hours of opening and closing, displays of advertisements, the visibility of the interior of the shop to passers by.

Compliance with Planning and Consumer Protection legislation may also be required.

No one under the age of 18 years can apply for a licence.

You must be a fit and proper person and not be disqualified from holding a licence.

You must not have had an application refused for the same licence within the 12 months prior to making your application, unless you have had a material change in circumstances.

The premises must be appropriate to the operation of a sex shop.

Telling us about any changes

You must notify us in writing of any changes to the details of the Licence. This information should be submitted, in writing, within one month of the changes taking place.

If the need for the licence becomes redundant, you should surrender the licence to us as soon as possible.

Fee for application

An application fee is payable. The fee is currently £468. The fee is non-refundable.

You can pay by either:

Unfortunately we are unable to accept payment by BACs, cheques or cash.

The fee must be paid at the same time the application for the licence is lodged with us. The application will not be considered competent until the fee is paid.

How to apply

You can submit sex shop licence application online on GOV.UK website:

Alternatively you can apply in paper by completing the relevant application form:

Please send your competed form by email to or by post to, please note physical mail is only checked once a week:

Aberdeenshire Council
Legal and People
Arduthie Road
AB39 2DQ

If you are unable to complete the forms, please call us and we will assist you to apply over the telephone.

Display of notice

At the same time as lodging your application for a licence, you must display the appropriate site notice (PDF 104KB), at the location from which your business is to operate, for a period of 28 days. 

The notice must give the address of the premises and state that an application for a sex shop licence has been made to the council. It must also give the applicant’s full name, address and date of birth. In the case of a company, form, public body or voluntary organisation the names, dates of birth and private addresses of the directors,  partners, committee members or other person(s) responsible for the management of the activity or activities then that person’s name, date of birth and address must also be shown. A copy of the  notice together with the certificate of compliance must be produced once the 28-day time limit has expired.

If the notice is removed, covered or defaced during that period the certificate must state the reasonable steps taken for its protection or if need be, its replacement. If the council is of the opinion that the notice does not comply with these requirements or that reasonable steps have not been taken to protect or replace the notice the council may require the applicant to display the notice again for a further period of 28 days before making a final decision on the application.

If the applicant declares that a notice cannot be displayed because they do not have rights of access or other rights in respect of the premises to enable this to be done then he must also declare and specify what reasonable steps have been taken without success to acquire these rights.

Application process

Full approval will not be granted until the required information and documentation has been provided, examined and deemed satisfactory, and the application has been fully processed.

You are not permitted to operate as a sex shop until such time as a sex shop licence has been issued to you.

We will send a copy of your application to the Police, the Firemaster, Planning Services, Building Standards, Trading Standards, and Environmental Health (our consultees).

In the absence of objections or adverse representations, your licence will be issued to you under delegated authority.

Where objections or adverse representations are made, your application will be referred to the appropriate Committee of Aberdeenshire Council for consideration.

We will keep a register of applications in which we will enter the details of the receipt of each application, our final decision and reasons for the decision, the details of the terms of each licence granted and a note of any suspension, variation of the terms, or surrender, of a licence.

The register must be available for inspection by any member of the public at reasonable times and places and any member of the public must be permitted to make a copy of it.

Tacit consent

Tacit consent won't apply. This means that you cannot assume that the application has been approved if you do not hear from us.

It is in the interest of public safety that we must process your application before it can be granted.

Refusal of application

You can require us to give you reasons for our decision within 28 days of the date of our decision to refuse the application.

You have the right to appeal to the Sheriff against our decision, within 28 days of that decision being made. That said, you must have already followed any available procedure in terms of stating your case to us. Find out how to appeal or object to a licence application.

Consumer complaint

We would always advise that in the event of a complaint against a trader the first contact is made with the trader by you - preferably in the form of a letter (with proof of delivery). If that has not worked and you are located in the UK, Consumer Direct will give you advice. From outside the UK please contact the UK European Consumer Centre.