LIke a dog with a bone, the Harrogate Advertiser Series has been reporting regularly on the strange phenomenon of the missing signs across North Yorkshire. Well, the latest news is that the plot has thickened.
Villagers in Aldborough, Whixley, Marton cum Grafton and Lower Dunsforth had told us their signs for small events were disappearing without warning on a regular basis, writes Graham Chalmers.
Theories abounded as to who the culprits were and the reasons behind their removal from lampposts, walls and roadsides.
Some blamed North Yorkshire County Council, others Harrogate Borough Council.
A few thought it was a ‘Bermuda Triangle’ for signs.
There’s at least two sides to most stories, however.
It is known that in March this year Harrogate Borough Council’s Parks & Environmental Services department was looking into the issue of banners within parks and open spaces.
It seems they had received a number of complaints about the number of banners appearing in the main parks across the district, specifically relating to the length of time banners were hanging on the hedges and fences, as well as the number of banners.
And, since our last story on the problem, more readers have got in touch to complain about their signs disappearing.
A Harrogate cafe raised the plight of small businesses, a new theme.
Rumbles in Pannal posted on Facebook that signs advertising the cafe had been removed from a fence near traffic lights on the main road in May.
The post said: “I am a small business hidden away on a business park and these signs help to bring public in off the main road.
As to who did it, Rumbles claimed the following “on my way home last night a council worker was removing swing signs from Pannal, one of which was mine.
“They were put in his van and being taken away to Boroughbridge where apparently there are lots of these signs which have been taken by the council. You can pay to get them back.”
Harrogate man Gordon Bryce also posted a similar complaint, this time about signs for a commercial event - the AS Decorative Home & Salvage Show.
The post claimed that: “Harrogate council took all our signs down in May for an event in the village of Ripley. The only sign that was not removed was the large one on Ripley roundabout.”
He said the signs had been taken away by “a lady driving a council van” but when the Harrogate Advertiser asked whether the van belonged to North Yorkshire County Council or Harrogate Borough Council. he replied: “All I know is it was a woman in a yellow van. The chap who saw her was from Derby so I’m not sure.”
Sadly, the waters surrounding the mystery of the missing signs seem muddier than ever.
But, perhaps, that’s inevitable.
It’s a story with several strands. Should signs for commercial events or activities to be treated the same as not-for-profit community events?
Should signs on the side of roads be subject to the same official policy as signs in residential streets or public parks?
With two councils affected in theory by the issue, perhaps it’s not possible to have a clear line or a straight policy on signs?
It’s certainly proving difficult to detect one.
Harrogate Borough Council said recently it had nothing to do with the removal of signs.
A spokesman said “my advice would be to speak to staff at North Yorkshire County Council as they handle complaints regarding event signage within their responsibility as the leading highways authority.”
But a spokesman for North Yorkshire County Council did seem to imply it had some role to play.
He said: “We’ve always had a relatively relaxed attitude on community groups putting signs up to publicise their events. If we need to remove any signs we always contact the people involved and give them three chances to do so. And we usually allow them to keep them up for 30 days anyway.”
The saga continues.