Local tourist spots should be properly signposted argues Beith

June 11, 2009 at 8:38 am Leave a comment

by Anna Rutter

Small rural businesses must be provided with greater flexibility in promoting their facilities with road signs, Liberal Democrat MP Sir Alan Beith has argued.

Introducing his Ten Minute Rule Bill entitled ‘Road Signs (Tourist Destinations and Facilities), which would place obligations on the Highways Agency to help the promotion of local tourist facilities by providing them with appropriate road signs, he noted that tourism was absolutely vital to most rural communities, with many tourist businesses depending upon motorists finding their way off the main road to the facilities they had to offer.

Whilst he was not in favour of American-style billboards erected all over roads and fields, there was a completely different case to be made for local tourism signs, he said.

Whilst it was right for there to be planning controls, in too many cases, businesses were coming across obstruction and disproportionate action.

The House was told of the experiences of Berwick-upon-Tweed gold club, which attracted thousands of tourists each year and had paid £1,200 for brown tourist signs, promptly removed by the Highways Agency without consulting the club or allowing it to make representation.

“I took the matter up with the Highways Agency, which has apologised for its failure to consult,” he told MPs.

“So, that is all right: the signs will go back up, won’t they? Oh, no. They cannot go back up, because the Highways Agency says that they are no longer in line with its current policy on tourist signs.

“It says that the golf club should advise visitors through its website to look out for the road sign to Goswick and follow that route.

“That involves taking a dangerous turning off a single carriageway road, one of several turnings to places with confusingly similar names: Goswick, Cheswick and Fenwick. The idea that hundreds of visiting golfers should have to rely on their computer back home to spot the right turning is ridiculous.

“If the Highways Agency wants to prove my Bill unnecessary, it must abandon this ridiculous refusal to reinstate very necessary signs, and show more flexibility and helpfulness to rural businesses.”

A more tolerant attitude, and a simple approval process, was needed to ensure that signs provided direction to nearby tourist facilities, Sir Alan said, and were safely road sited and adequately designed.

Concluding, he reminded the House that the countryside depended upon tourism more than ever during a period of recession.

Too often, small businesses felt that the system was working against them when it should be helping them to make their services available to the motorist and contributing to tourism in the economy of the countryside, he said.

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