Councils urged to remove unnecessary street signs

  • Published

The government is urging councils in England to cut unnecessary road signs, railings and advertising hoardings in a bid to make streets tidier and safer.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said the number of signs was damaging the character of towns and villages.

Campaigners have said lots of signs are unsightly, unnecessary and can leave motorists confused.

The Local Government Association said many signs were needed or required by law but some had already been removed.

Street audits

Mr Pickles has accused what he calls over-zealous councils of wasting taxpayers' money on signs that blight the local environment.

He and Transport Secretary Philip Hammond have written to council leaders calling on them to remove the clutter.

The government is urging the public to get involved by carrying out street audits and lobbying their councils.

The Department for Transport is reviewing the policy on traffic signs and will issue new advice on how to cut down on the clutter later this year.

In one example of the issue, the department said there were 63 bollards in a car park for 53 cars in Salisbury.

On the other hand, it said that changes that had been made in Kensington High Street in west London had reduced accidents by up to 47%.

Mr Pickles said: "Our streets are losing their English character. We are being overrun by scruffy signs, bossy bollards, patchwork paving and railed off roads, wasting taxpayers' money that could be better spent on fixing potholes or keeping council tax down. We need to 'cut the clutter'.

"Too many overly-cautious town hall officials are citing safety regulations as the reason for cluttering up our streets with an obstacle course when the truth is very little is dictated by law.

"Common sense tells us uncluttered streets have a fresher, freer authentic feel, which are safer and easier to maintain."

'Distracts drivers'

Mr Hammond said unnecessary street furniture left areas "looking more like scrap yards than public spaces".

The ministers' remarks were welcomed by Ralph Smyth, from the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

"Clutter needs to be tackled in both rural and urban areas," he said. "With every local council in England drawing up new local transport plans, this welcome move could not be better timed.

"Clutter is not just ugly - it's expensive and distracts drivers."

But Richard Kemp, vice-chairman of the Local Government Association, told the BBC that decisions about street furniture were for councils, not ministers, to make.

"One man's clutter is very much another man's simple signing," he said.

"In our shopping streets in particular, we have to get a balance between pedestrians, residents, business needs and motorists, and that's a local decision, not something that a secretary of state should be involving himself in."

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