MP browned off after £187,000 quote for signs to Yorkshire town

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HIGHWAYS officials have been lambasted after quoting nearly £190,000 to put up roadside signs to direct visitors to a North Yorkshire market town.

The Department for Transport agreed earlier this month to allow the brown tourist signs to direct visitors to Masham off the new A1 after a campaign by Skipton and Ripon MP Julian Smith.

But Mr Smith has criticised Highways Agency officials after revealing they had claimed it would cost up to £187,000 to put up new signs.

The costs are now being cut down and Transport Secretary Justine Greening has pledged that the final bill will be “substantially lower”.

After raising his concerns in the Commons yesterday, Mr Smith said: “The initial figures quoted by the Highways Agency were out of this world and I can’t understand how putting up a couple of signs should cost any more than a few hundred pounds.

“Thanks to Ministers we’re getting there on lowering the costs but I do think the Highways Agency needs to become much more focused on serving those communities and businesses such as Masham who need unbureaucratic solutions at this difficult economic time.”

Ministers agreed to allow the signs after an 18-month “Masham on the Map” campaign. Old signs were taken down when the road was widened and campaigners were initially told that regulations meant new ones could not be put at the side of the upgraded route, before Roads Minister Mike Penning stepped in.

The Government is currently carrying out a review of regulations for brown signs amid concern the rules are too strict and hamper some tourism businesses.

Transport Secretary Justine Greening said: “We have challenged the costs that were originally proposed, and they will be substantially lower.”

A spokesperson for the Highways Agency said: “The Highways Agency has and will continue to work closely with the local community in Masham to find a solution for brown signs that meets their expectations and is affordable, whilst ensuring they fulfil their purpose of directing visitors to Masham.

“It is important that any solutions reached takes account of the need to maintain a safe and safe free flowing road network.”

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