A bid to lure more visitors into one of Yorkshire’s most popular countryside destinations is underway in the wake of warnings that the UK’s rural tourism industry is not taking advantage of the numbers of overseas visitors coming to Britain.
Richmond MP Rishi Sunak has secured two brown tourist signs to direct traffic passing through a busy junction of the A1 motorway to Wensleydale, in a move he hopes will help the area capitalise on Britain’s overseas tourism boom.
It comes after Welcome to Yorkshire chief Sir Gary Verity told MPs that opportunities are being missed to ensure rural areas of the country are not poor relations to towns and cities in reaping the rewards of Britain’s increasing popularity as a tourism destination.
Conservative MP Mr Sunak launched a campaign for brown tourism signs for Wensleydale and neighbouring Swaledale to be erected on the upgraded section of the A1 earlier this year.
The move attracted the support of councillors Carl Les and Yvonne Peacock, leaders of North Yorkshire County and Richmondshire District councils.
Mr Sunak has now revealed that permission has been granted for signs to Wensleydale to be included in a new signage scheme at Junction 51 at Leeming Bar under a special dispensation that was originally issued to benefit Masham by the former Transport Minister Mike Penning.
The cost of the new signs is £4,500 and the sum is being met by Richmondshire District Council and local business organisations, a battle far more manageable than that which faced Masham, where the community was asked to raise £36,000 to meet the costs.
As a next step, Mr Sunak said he was stepping up his efforts to secure the same dispensation for both Swaledale and the market town of Richmond from the Highways Agency by writing to the current Transport Minister John Hayes. The MP hopes both destinations can be signposted from the new Scotch Corner junction.
Mr Sunak said: “I am delighted that Wensleydale will be signposted from the upgraded road. The fact that the signs will be made along with the others being made for the new junction means that there will be some savings on the costs that would have been incurred if they had been ordered separately.
“I am now fighting for Swaledale and Richmond to be signposted as well.
“The upgraded A1 is a tremendous economic boost for northern North Yorkshire and I want to ensure that the benefit is spread as widely as possible.”
The issue of brown tourism signs was highlighted to MPs this week by Welcome to Yorkshire’s Sir Gary during an evidence session led by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee.
Sir Gary said there needs to be more brown tourist signs on major highways as most foreign visitors explored Britain by car.
He told MPs the Highways Agency had refused brown signs to direct visitors to Yorkshire’s National Parks.
Mr Sunak said: “There was a consensus on the committee that the criteria for deciding whether tourist attractions should be signposted is overdue for review.
“The majority of visitors to the UK travel about by car. We should be able to inform them of the proximity of these wonderful landscapes and historic towns.”