Village fete signs under threat

The Highways Agency has taken down signs for a village fete that has been an institution since 1919. For the past 90 years, the Longhope Village Fete in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, has been advertised by banners around the village.

Organisers of the fete, which raises money for charities such as the Scouts and the Women’s Institute, as well as the local school and church, were stunned to discover that the Highways Agency had removed their signs.

Fete organiser Fiona Casperson said: ‘We have made homemade signs for the past 90 years, but this year, they have been taken down. We’ve never had problems before, and they have removed the signs completely.’

The Highways Agency issued a statement, saying: ‘We have removed the signs because it is a distraction to drivers, and we have the power under the Highways Act to remove unauthorised signs.

‘The signs have to be authorised. They can’t just be put up at random, they have to comply with regulations.’

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This is not the first village fete to have its signs challenged. Last month, the Cambridge County Council removed signs for Hadstock village fete after a complaint was issued by a worried road user.

A council spokesman said: ‘There were very large signs located in the Horseheath area where there have previously been fatal accidents. We try to collaborate with local groups about putting up signs for events, but this group had not contacted us in advance.’

Also last month, Bromley Council ordered Downe Primary School to remove signs advertising its fetes, which were displayed beside roads such as the A21 and Shire Lane, and threatened prosecution if any more were put up in future.

Andrew Rogers, spokesman for Bromley Council, said: ‘Signs that are on the highways, on roads or pavements, are technically illegal. We advised the parents of that and wouldn’t want to take enforcement action.’

Nicola Hylands, vice-chairman of Friends of Downe School, said: ‘We’re very worried. It’s just a shame after so many years of advertising. You see signs there for months. We were always very careful about taking ours down quickly.

‘It’s a bit frustrating, we’re only trying to raise money for a school. If the Government had paid out for this stuff, we wouldn’t have to. But we do because of the under-funding.

‘This year, we’re starting to raise money for new computers. The equipment is very expensive, so it could take a couple of years.’

The school’s 2007 Christmas fete raised an impressive £4,400, but 2008’s, which only had a week’s worth of roadside advertising, raised half the amount.

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