Chiefs frown at bid to put up 'smiley' face sign in Gainford
By Martin Paul - Senior Reporter
VILLAGERS have been told they cannot have a “smiley face” fixed speed visor sign that they want because it’s against council rules.
Exasperated that little was being done to resolve speeding through their village, Gainford’s parish councillors last year decided to apply for funding for a sign to warn motorists if they are exceeding the village’s 30mph limit.
After a consultation it was concluded that most people in the village wanted one that flashed a smiling face when a motorist was adhering to the speed limit.
However, Durham County Council highways officer David Battensby told them that type of sign is not allowed under new rules formed by the Department for Transport in 2016.
He said: “We get a lot of requests for speed visors. People see them and they like them, but the reality is quite different.”
He said the signs have an impact when they are first installed, but the effectiveness dissipates over time.
He added: “Motorists become accustomed to it and they start to ignore it. They become part of the street clutter. We try to limit the use [of speed visors] on the highways so they don’t become over used. We look at speed visors as a last resort.”
Mr Battensby recognised that there were few other options available to the village but warned the parish council to choose a speed sign that meets Department of Transport rules.
He said: “The smiley face signs are not in the regulations and have been removed. Basically we can’t put up any smiley face signs.”
He also advised that signs which display a vehicle’s speed could only be used temporarily and could not be a permanent fixture. These types of signs also have to be capped because it had been found that some motorists deliberately drive faster to see how far they can push the sign’s reading.
However, Mr Battensby advised that a sign which flashes the speed limit, along with flashing beacons, would be a good choice for the village. These type of signs can be adjusted so the speed limit flashes when it picks up a vehicle approaching, and the beacon lights only flash when a vehicle is exceeding a certain speed. The words “slow down” can also appear on this type of sign, the officer said.
Parish clerk Martin Clark said the village had secured a £3,000 grant but the funding may have to be rolled over as more work is done to decide on the type of sign the parish would buy.