Hopes raised of ‘Yorkshire’ road signs to greet drivers

HOPES have been raised that signs could finally be put up to herald motorists’ arrival in Yorkshire, even though highways bosses have ruled out erecting official boundary signs.

The Highways Agency has told Rother Valley MP Kevin Barron that official boundary signs can only be put up to mark the arrival of motorists into a county council area, so Yorkshire is “not eligible”.

But they said a sign may be allowed to mark the “legend” Yorkshire as a place of geographic interest. Mr Barron is pressing for the signs to be installed on the M1, and tourism chiefs say they would consider funding the move.

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Mr Barron said: “I would hope we can get agreement pretty quickly. When people come into Yorkshire will all its glory, they should know they’re in Yorkshire and that’s what I want to happen.”

Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Gary Verity said: “If we can get one we would welcome it with open arms. We think there should be signage that would announce you arriving into the greatest county in the UK. We would support it in whatever way we can, even if it needed some funding to do so.”

Mr Barron was inspired to ask the Highways Agency about the possibility of a welcome to Yorkshire road sign on the M1 after repeatedly passing one heading south informing motorists when they were entering Derbyshire and wondering why there was not one for those heading in the other direction.

But agency officials warned him a boundary sign – for which funding would still have to be found from third parties – was only allowed to mark the extent of a county council territory.

“Since South Yorkshire is no longer a county council it would not be eligible for such signs,” he was informed in a letter.

However, Highways Agency officials have offered to set up talks with the Department for Transport over whether a sign marking Yorkshire as a place of “geographic interest” could be authorised.

“Signs bearing the legend ‘Yorkshire’ could be considered under the Traffic Signs Regulation and General Direction 2002 as an item of local geographic interest,” he was told in the letter, and Mr Barron is now keen to pursue this route.

The issue of road signs as a marketing tool is a thorny one, with Ministers pledging in the recent Tourism Strategy to review whether brown signs can be used more freely to advertise visitor attractions.

Until now, brown signs are not supposed to advertise attractions, but merely direct people who have already decided to go there. However, Ministers believe they should be used more freely as a way of boosting the tourism industry, which is already worth £6bn to the Yorkshire economy.

Skipton and Ripon MP Julian Smith has been calling for changes to the current regulations because of fears from businesses in Masham and Ripon that changes to signs off the upgraded A1(M) would have led to a drop in tourists visiting the town.

Businesses in Masham are furious because they have been told that they cannot have a sign for the market town without having a specific tourism site that will attract 200,000 visitors a year.

Mr Smith is also concerned that following the upgrading of the A1(M) Ripon Cathedral is no longer deemed to qualify for a sign.