Councillors have dismissed a Highways Agency report on why Masham has to foot a £32,000 bill for tourist signs as a “terrible response”.
The Highways Agency presented a report to councillors at a Harrogate District Area Committee meeting on Thursday, November 2, at the request of the committee.
Andrew Brown, of the agency’s service delivery team, insisted that Masham Parish Council would have to pay £32,000 to erect brown tourist signs on the A1 directing visitors to the town, despite Lightwater Valley, Fountains Abbey and Ripon Cathedral receiving signs free of charge.
Masham Parish Council chairman Paul Richardson said: “It was a terrible response from the Highways Agency. There has been a noticeable lack of footfall and fewer visitors to Masham – and a lot of it has to be put down to the signs.”
Councillors at the meeting voted to contribute to a Parliamentary review of brown signs by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, to reassess why Masham is not eligible for new signs when directions leading visitors to the town were in place before the multi-million pound motorway overhaul.
The Highways Agency report was delivered following calls from North Yorkshire County Council to protect tourism in Masham, with businesses such as the Old Station Cafe closing six days a week and sweet shop Bah Humbugs reporting a 20 per cent sales slump.
Coun Keith Barnes – who proposed the idea of sending a letter to Parliament – told Mr Brown at the meeting: “This report is unacceptable. You have had enough time to come back to us with answers to our questions.”
A Welcome to Yorkshire spokesman said: “We have been lobbying for more signage for places like Masham as better signage for destinations and attractions can only be a good thing for tourism, but ultimately decisions like this rest with the Highways Agency.”