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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment): 17th April, 2012

 

Report of the Director of Environmental and Economic Regeneration

 

Maintenance and Review of Highway Directional and Information Signage

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To inform Committee of the proposed maintenance arrangements for highway directional and information signage for 2012/13 and of the current position as regards highway signage in general.

Recommendations

1.             That Committee note the proposed arrangements for the maintenance of highway directional and information signage for 2012/13.

2.             That Committee note the recent introduction of a policy for brown tourism signage.

3.             That Committee agree that no further reviews of highway directional and information signage would be appropriate at this time. 

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.             To advise Committee.

2.             To demonstrate the work undertaken to date on certain forms of highway directional signage.

3.             That Committee recognise the many competing demands on the highway maintenance budget and the relevant priority of any further signage review work at this time. 

Background

2.             At its meeting of 5th October 2011, Committee requested a report on “The maintenance cycle for cleaning and repairing signs throughout the Vale.”  It also requested that, “A full review of signage, including Brown signs, be undertaken and reported to the Scrutiny Committee.”

3.             Since the date of this Committee meeting Cabinet has agreed a new policy on tourism (brown) signage (Min. No. C1640, Cabinet 29th February 2012).  This report will therefore not include details of a review on ‘Brown Signs’ as this has now been addressed, in part, by the introduction of a new policy.  Existing signage, not in accord with the policy, will not be removed or changed at this time but will be phased out as the particular businesses concerned either change their operations or cease trading.  Over time tourism signage consistency will improve as more and more businesses come into line with the new policy arrangements.

4.             The request from Committee for a full review of signage is noted, though due to the current budget pressures on the department coupled with very low levels of public interest in signage (when compared to other demands such as highway and footway repairs), it is suggested that committing funds to such would not be appropriate at this time. Individual signage maintenance and cleaning issues will however continue to be addressed on a specific location / incident basis.

5.             Committee are asked to note that all signage used on the highway network has to comply with the requirements of the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002 and Chapter 7 of the Traffic Signs Manual.  

Relevant Issues and Options

6.             The Council has a general duty under the Highway Act 1980 to maintain the highway and its associated infrastructure, in the interests of public safety.  In conjunction with this the document 'Well Maintained Highways A Code of Practice' for highway maintenance management stipulates the maintenance standards for highway signage, suggesting that signage should be cleaned 'annually', though this is not a legal requirement.

7.             Very few complaints are received from the public concerning the maintenance of signage and there have been no successful claims against the Council for failure to comply with its legal duty in this regard.

8.             It is accepted however that there is an aesthetic and reputation principle with highway signage as dirty or partially obscured signage can give road users and visitors a poor impression of an area.

9.             Currently all sign maintenance (cleaning and repairs) is undertaken reactively, either on receipt of a complaint from a member of the public or a report from a highways inspector.  Whilst this satisfies the Council’s legal duty it does not consistently address issues of cleanliness or issues such as signage partially obscured by foliage.

10.        The resources required to routinely clean every Highway sign within the Vale on a regular basis would be excessive and, when considering the recorded public interest, would not be commensurate to the extent of the problem at this time.  It is suggested that a targeted short duration annual cleaning programme for signage at main junctions and entry points into the Vale, supported by the current reactive arrangements, could provide a more cost effective solution.  

11.        In addition, the Cabinet Member for Visible and Building services has often raised concerns about signage obscured by foliage, particularly in areas of the rural Vale, therefore highway inspectors are now equipped with the necessary tools to clear this foliage as part of their routine highway inspections.  This is a fairly recent service development.

12.        Further, the ‘report a problem’ section of the Council’s web site will be changed to feature a specific heading of ‘highway signage’.  This should make it easier for specific complaints to be reported and therefore for the reactive element of the maintenance arrangements to be improved. 

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment and Climate Change, if appropriate)

13.        There are marginal costs associated with the web site change and the new duties of the highway inspectors, though the provision of a scheduled sign cleaning service for a 6 week period to supplement the existing reactive arrangements would cost in the region of £11k, and this is made up as follows:

 

Operatives X 2

£8,300.00

 

Transport

£1,700.00

 

Sundry Cleansing Supplies

£1,000.00

 

 

 

 

 

A total annual cost of £11,000.00 per annum.

14.        This additional cost will be met from the existing Highway Maintenance Revenue budget.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

15.        The Council has a duty under the Highways Act 1980 to maintain the highway and associated infrastructure to protect the public safety and to also consider any relevant Codes of Practice.  ('Well Maintained Highways' a Code of Practice for highway maintenance management stipulates the maintenance standards for highway signage, suggesting that signage should be cleaned 'annually', though this is not a legal requirement).  It is suggested that any duty is already being met via the existing service arrangements.  However the Failure to maintain Highway signs as 'fit for purpose' could lead to damages claims should a court feel that we have failed in our 'duty of care' to road users.

16.        As previously advised the type and location of highway signage is dictated by the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002 and Chapter 7 of the Traffic Signs Manual. 

Crime and Disorder Implications

17.        There is no Crime and Disorder Implications associated with this report.  Although there have been incidents of Highway signs being subject to crimes of graffiti.  The proposal in this report should reduce the impact of such incidents.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

18.        There are no equal opportunity implications resulting from this report.

Corporate/Service Objectives

19.        It is a Corporate Priority to: To work with partners to develop a sustainable community which maximises opportunities for economic growth social improvement and environmental regeneration and protection.

Improvement Objective:

To protect and enhance the Vale’s natural and built environment.

Policy Framework and Budget

20.        This report is within the policy framework and budget.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

21.        None.

Background Papers

22.        Tourism Signage Policy (C1640, Cabinet 29th February 2012)

 

Contact Officer

Colin Smith, Works Manager, Waste Management and Cleansing Tel. No:  02920 673223

 

Officers Consulted

Accountant, Building and Visible Services

Operational Manager Legal Services

Operational Manager Highways and Engineering

 

Responsible Officer:

Rob Quick, Director of Environmental and Economic Regeneration

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