For several years it has concerned me, and many others I speak to, that trees, hedges and general dirt are being allowed to obscure road signs. A while ago I searched for any rules that may apply as directed by the Department For Transport and found the attached from the Traffic Signs Manual (1982 Amended 2004). I would bring your attention in particular to 1. Introductory, paragraph 1.2 and 5. The Design & Use of Signs, paragraph 1.31 (b) and 9. Maintenance of Signs. All common sense, you would think?
Quite obviously these conditions are not being met. For example: the road sign coming up to the Hadleigh Road mini roundabout at Sproughton from the Washbrook direction. It is so obscured by the hedge that you cannot read the sign until you’re virtually next to it and nearly at the roundabout!! Similarly, now the leaves are coming out on trees, other signs are disappearing behind them. I cannot believe that this problem is not the subject of more of an outcry as with the pot hole debacle. Being unable to read road signs from a safe distance is as dangerous as having to be more vigilant in avoiding potholes.
Suffolk Highways needs to meet its obligations under these rules which are made for good reason. I think you will have seen from my leaflets and “In Touch” contributions that I have been active in pressing for improved performance across the board although the key focus has been potholes .
I believe that the outsourcing of the highways contract has not worked and, despite the Conservatives rolling it on for another five years, it must either perform in short order or the work must be taken back in-house. Suffolk people just can’t continue to put up with the issues you raise or the potholes.
We must have the management talent to guide the workforce to high performance. As the government has been giving some relatively small but significant grants for such work and we could use a sensible amount, £2 million, from the £150 million reserves to make one-off improvements. We should be able to do better!
You will get this if you ensure there is a strong opposition after Thursday to make sure that the mantra that everything must be privatised does not result in self-deception about the level of performance achieved.
District Councillors for this year only have a £5,000 budget to deploy in their wards to fund projects by community groups. They must of course align with Mid-Suffolk’s objectives. Forms to request grants of £250+ are available and your councillors will make final decisions by early January.
As a County Councillor, I also have my locality budget available and about £12,000 remains, after providing support for a Vehicle Activated Sign (VAS) in Henley and Hemingstone, pond refurbishment at Henley Primary and LED floodlights for Bramford Football Club.
I would like to support local community organisations to meet the needs of local residents, ideally but not exclusively, where county money leverages in funds from other bodies. Further VAS might be an idea.
The devolution discussions are wending their way forward. The government has stated that both Norfolk and Suffolk must be involved as in the LEP. A number of powers will be handed down only if an elected mayor controls a combined authority.
There is now a Norfolk and Suffolk Framework Document for Devolution, which gives a clearer list of ambitions. It opens “Devolution offers an exciting opportunity for greater local decision-making and influence to power economic growth and productivity and unlock the potential of Norfolk and Suffolk. The two counties have the scale, ambition and leadership to maximise the opportunities offered by additional freedoms and responsibilities. We also have the potential to grow our economy faster, with strengths in key sectors such as agri-tech, food & health, energy and the digital economy.”
The framework claims strengths as:
- National hubs for key business sectors, eg financial industries, that need to be nurtured to become magnets for global inward investment
- An all-energy coast at the centre of the world’s largest market for offshore wind
- Globally-leading research in life sciences and agri-tech, and pioneering technical innovations in ICT research and development.
- The UK’s busiest container port, in Felixstowe
- A fast-growing creative digital sector, with Norwich recently recognised by Tech City UK
- Market-leading food and drink producers
- Our first-class cultural heritage attractions mean tourism is worth £4.6bn annually across Norfolk and Suffolk
However, while our employment figures are among the best in the country, our skills and productivity levels are below the national average.
I believe the need to work with Norfolk and a wider variety of political parties has helped clarify the way forward. Negotiations continue.