£5,000 cost to ‘design’ controversial Fenland sign

A hefty toll ... more than �5,000 has been spent on design costs for the controversial village hall road sign on the A47 at Thorney Toll. Photo: Rowland Hobson
A hefty toll ... more than �5,000 has been spent on design costs for the controversial village hall road sign on the A47 at Thorney Toll. Photo: Rowland Hobson
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Concern has been raised over the use of public funds after the Highways Agency spent £5,000 designing a road sign for a Fenland village.

The village hall road sign on the A47 at Thorney Toll had already attracted controversy for its cost to the taxpayer, expected now to total a little over £9,000.

However, following a Freedom of Information request submitted by the Peterborough Telegraph, the Highways Agency has revealed more than half of the spend – some £5,084 – is going just on design costs.

This includes: site visits, a report to assess the potential impact on all road users who are not in vehicles, such as pedestrians and equestrians, two safety audits (one internal and another independent), an examination of the would-be environmental impact, as well as sign design itself.

Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Taxpayers will be shocked that the design costs for a single sign were so much.

“It shows that there is still plenty of room for public sector bodies to make savings. More effort has to be made to deliver value for money for hard-pressed families.”

Other costs for the work, which followed a campaign from villagers over road safety concerns, included construction work (£922, of which materials amounted to £221), supervision of the sign’s installations (£307) and another safety audit following the sign’s installation (£757).

The spend so far totals about £7,000, but is expected to rise by another £2,000 with a fourth safety audit among the steps yet to be taken.

Member of Wisbech St Mary Parish Council for Thorney Toll Cllr John Fish echoed the criticism of the design costs.

He said: “I would not have thought it would have cost that sort of money.”

He added: “It’s a lot of money, definitely, a lot of money, and to me it’s extravagant, but we do need the signs.”

A Highways Agency spokeswoman said: “Safety is our top priority and it is vital that we maintain consistent standards with all work we carry out.

“In addition to the cost and construction of the actual signs, design and safety work is essential to ensure the signs do not cause a distraction to drivers and fulfil their purpose safely.”

Do you think taxpayers got value for money over the controversial village hall sign?

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The road sign was installed following a year-long battle from villagers, supported by the MP for North East Cambridgeshire Steve Barclay.

It had appeared Wisbech St Mary Parish Council would have to pay £30,000 for the work, before the Highways Agency agreed to pick up the bill.

However, there was disappointment for locals when the road sign was positioned opposite the village hall, giving motorists less notice that other road users may be slowing down to access the facility.