Over the past year, whilst undertaking my challenge to sleep on the summits of all 52 counties of England and Wales, travelling down the M1, I was confused to see county boundary signs for Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire as there is no such sign for my county of Yorkshire.
Upon investigation I quickly learnt that none of these counties were actually marked either. What is marked are the council areas which bear the names of the counties and as there is no Yorkshire County Council legislation does not allow for us Yorkshire folk to welcome visitors to our beloved county. So why are the councils investing thousands of pounds to mark council areas which only serve to create confusion and breaches legislation? This is unacceptable so I decided to investigate further.
Upon reading the Traffic Signs Manual it stated: “1.2 Signs must give road users their message clearly and at the correct time. The message must be unambiguous and speedily understood; it must be given not too soon for the information to have been forgotten before it is needed, and not too late for the safe performance of consequent manoeuvres.”
Of the 39 counties of England the names of 8 are not used for that of a council area. But of the remaining 31 that have assumed the name of a county, 30 have omitted the word “council” from their boundary signs, in breach of the Traffic Signs Manual, as by doing so the signs are ambiguous. I have registered complaints with all 30 councils in addition to 5 in Wales. The responses to date have been an education:
Councils: A standard response is that their signs are unambiguous. This is despite the fact that the signs are ambiguous as they are in place to mark the council area but as they have omitted the word council they are stating a county and are thus ambiguous.
Department for Transport (DfT) /Highways Agency (HA) – No such claim has been made by either the HA or the DfT in fact on November 2 the HA have stated: “….the agency is still unclear what the exact signing procedure is for the new unitary authorities particularly in cases such as Durham where the Unitary assumes the name of a county in its title. As soon as we are clear on this issue we can act to make any necessary review of the signage.”
My enquiry to an official in the DfT Leeds office resulted in Anthony Boucher, Deputy Director of Traffic at the DfT , responsible for traffic signs intervention, stating on November 7: “.. the Department will not respond to any further correspondence from you on this issue.”
Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) – In addition the DCMS are in the process of launching a £2M pilot scheme in Derbyshire, Cornwall, Devon, Norfolk, North Yorkshire and Cumbria to promote cultural heritage. I have asked the DCMS questions but they too have failed to answer my questions.
So, why are the DCMS planning to “promote” the cultural heritage of the council area of North Yorkshire which is only 38 years old instead of marking the boundary of Yorkshire with its vast cultural heritage which is over 1,135 years old? Could this be politics?
I am of the opinion that the Government is using our loyalty to our cultural heritage that is the counties to promote their political objectives. They are implying that they are marking our historic counties by omitting the word council when in truth they are marking administrative areas. I believe this to be a Government objective.
I am also of the opinion that councils who are omitting the word “council” from their boundary signs are either incompetent, corrupt or part of the Government objective.
As our children are aware of the number of states in the US and can indeed name those of Australia surely they should be taught about their own cultural heritage, that is the 39 counties of England?
- Legislation – The current “county” boundary signs breach legislation.
- Finance – Councils come and go but counties are a permanent. As such it is financially prudent to mark the county boundaries.
- Cultural Heritage – The current signs are eroding our cultural heritage that is the counties. Our counties are our cultural heritage. Councils are politics.
- Standardisation – All other road signs across the UK are standardised. Boundary signs should also be standardised.
- Confusion – The current signs are confusing motorists in breach of legislation.
I am requesting that the Department for Transport carries out an immediate review into the debacle of current boundary road sign policy and recommend the following:
- A full review is undertaken.
- The spring boundary sign scheme is put on hold to prevent wasting further finance.
- A standardised boundary road sign scheme is introduced to mark our 39 counties.
- The new signs are financed by the £2M earmarked for the spring scheme. With 39 counties this equates to over £51K per area and as a sign costs between £500 and £2,000 this more than finances my proposal.
- The word “historic” to be added to legislation to allow for our county boundaries to be marked.