Minister indicates change in direction over tourism signs

THE Government has launched a review of road signs amid fears some of the nation’s leading attractions in rural areas are missing out on vital business.

Roads Minister Mike Penning has admitted that the system governing the famous brown information signs advertising tourist attractions is “too complicated and over-prescriptive”.

He confirmed talks are under way with the Highways Agency to ensure the signs are being maximised to promote the tourism industry.

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The issue was raised in a Parliamentary debate by the Tory MP for Skipton and Ripon, Julian Smith, who has mounted a campaign to ensure brown signs are in place for some of the most visited attractions in his constituency.

Mr Smith has expressed reservations about new stipulations that mean attractions have to have at least 200,000 visitors a year or 40,000 in a given month to qualify for a brown road sign.

He said: “For attractions in rural areas like the Yorkshire Dales, it is often very difficult to get these visitor numbers.

“There needs to be a clear strategy to promote the tourism industry, which is so important for the region’s economy.

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“I do feel that many businesses in my constituency have endured a double-whammy with the recession and now they are not being given the necessary help to attract more visitors.”

Mr Smith has been involved in discussions with businesses including the Black Sheep Brewery in Masham, as well as leading attractions such as Ripon Cathedral and Newby Hall.

Mr Penning has admitted a more streamlined approach is needed to bolster the tourism industry, which involves more than 200,000 businesses in the UK. In Yorkshire alone, visitors spend about £7bn a year and the industry supports nearly 250,000 jobs.

Mr Penning said: “The current system for determining whether or not there can be a brown sign on the strategic road network is too complicated and over-prescriptive.

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“I want to see a clear, more pragmatic, common-sense approach that will best serve the needs of road users and help the tourist industry, while avoiding cluttering the network with too many signs.

“To that end, the Highways Agency will be working with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and Visit England to see how we can best promote informative signs and tourism while ensuring road safety.”