Richmondshire villages could deploy own speed signs

North Yorkshire County Council is consulting all town and parish councils in its 3,200 square mile area over calls to relax its rules, to allow communities to buy and maintain their own roadside equipment to deter speeding motorists.

A number of county councillors have reported that more parishes would like to deploy Vehicle Activated Signs (VAS) in their areas, and say it has been established the devices can be bought for a fraction of the price the county authority is currently hiring them out for.

Conservative Richmondshire North councillor Angus Thompson told a meeting of the county council’s Richmondshire Area Committee: “I feel very strongly that speeding through villages in my division is a major issue.”

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He said while many villages had set up initiatives – such as North Yorkshire Police’s Community Speed Watch, where motorists caught speeding for a third time on equipment given to residents get a visit from police – the VAS signs would alleviate concerns further.

Under the county council’s current rules, parishes are only allowed to hire VAS, at a cost of £3,500 for three six-week periods a year, over four years, which many smaller parish councils say is unaffordable.

Since launching the scheme following a pilot study in 2014, 30 parishes have hired VAS on a rotational basis.

Councillor Thompson, whose call for action has led the county’s Transport, Economy and Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee to investigate the issue, said he was pressing the council to allow VAS “as and where the parish councils wish to buy and use them”.

He said the lowest cost for a sign he had seen was £1,750.

Parishes such as Sutton-under-Whitestonecliffe, near Thirsk, have reported the VAS sign it has hired from the council has made a significant difference to the speeds motorists drive through the village.

Councillor Caroline Artingstoll, chairman of Sutton-under-Whitestonecliffe Parish Council, said the illustrative costs of buying and maintaining a VAS presented by the county council stated the price would be £6,500 for the initial four years, but lower thereafter.

She said the document sent to parishes also appeared to suggest, even if a parish council wanted to buy a VAS, the county council would decide if it was eligible, if a proposed location was suitable and for how long it could be operated, thereby giving parishes little discretion.

She said: “I am not optimistic at all about this move. I certainly wouldn’t recommend buying one.”

Councillor Artingstoll said an alternative and cheaper option presented by the county council of buying a Speed Indicator Device, which display motorists speeds and are not currently used in North Yorkshire, would be better value for money.

Councillor Thompson urged parish councils to respond to the scrutiny committee ahead of its May meeting over the issue, adding: “It’s only by banging the war drum that we are going to get something done about this.”

The council’s leader, Councillor Carl Les, said he was awaiting the findings of the scrutiny committee before deciding whether the rules should be relaxed.