Leading members of North Yorkshire County Council have agreed to review its policy over Vehicle Activated Signs (VAS) , following numerous parishes saying its current rules made the interactive signs which display the speed limit unaffordable.
During a lengthy debate at a meeting of the authority’s executive, concerns were raised that VAS could be installed where there was a perceived rather than real issue with speeding.
Councillors said this could lead to a proliferation of VAS and diminish the effectiveness of signs the county had installed at evidence-based speeding hotspots.
Despite this concern, members heard the council’s Transport, Economy and Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee had recommended to allow parishes to purchase and maintain VAS, subject to the council deciding on matters such as the siting and removal of signs, the type of sign and supplier to be used.
While some parish councils have said the condition that the county would decide which signs could be bought would prevent them from finding the most affordable VAS, the meeting heard it remained unclear whether allowing parishes to chose VAS would lower the cost.
Highways boss Councillor Don Mackenzie added that, ultimately, the county council was accountable for road safety.
He said: “We have a responsibility for whatever we do is right for the safety of our residents. We are not making a decision for one particular village or a street, we are talking about the whole county.”
The meeting was told the cost of VAS was likely to remain prohibitive for some parishes, but many had significant reserves and unlike the county council did not have their precepts capped.
Councillor David Jeffels said: “This is an opportunity for us as a county council to empower parish councils to enable them to respond to the concerns of many of their residents.”
The authority’s deputy leader Councillor Gareth Dadd said giving parishes the right to buy VAS fitted in with the Conservative-run council’s agenda to foster more local decision-making.
He said: “It gives them the option to debate within their parish, with the evidence that perhaps they might glean from our officers and the police, whether they want to risk and spend their money on something that may or may not have an effect.
“I think we would do well to remember that perception is different from evidence, but we also as an authority need the confidence of the public and parish councils and I think on this one I am minded to say we have got to let a little bit of trust to flow.”
The executive agreed for a policy to be drawn up to enable parishes to buy VAS while addressing concerns such as safeguarding the effectiveness of existing VAS signs.