The ‘bewildering’ council road signs

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Thanks for Retuning!

It is the county known as “The Rose of the Shires”, an evocative description that has long appeared on road signs welcoming visitors.

But officials have been criticised after replacing the wording with the “bewildering” new slogan: “Welcome to Northamptonshire – let yourself grow”.

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The replacement signs cost £25,000 and have been erected on roads entering the county as part of a campaign to rebrand the area.

It is one of a series of schemes across the country in which councils have replaced traditional boundary signs with new boards featuring what motorists describe as “sloppy slogans”. The cost of the schemes runs into hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Other new signs, uncovered in a survey by The Sunday Telegraph, include:

– “Welcome to Tower Hamlets – let’s make it happen” introduced at a cost of £29,677

– “Welcome to the Borough of Tunbridge Wells – Love Where We Live” (£1,994)

– “Proud to be part of Sandwell – Great people, great place, great prospects” (£20,430)

– “Welcome to Newham – a place where people choose to live, work and stay” (£95,039)

– “Welcome to Oldham – many places one destination” (£30,000)

– “Hertfordshire – County of Opportunity” (£2,142)

- “Hyndburn – an excellent council” (£25,566)

The phrase “let yourself grow” was the result of a £100,000, two-year rebranding project by council and business leaders in Northamptonshire, after research found that the county lacked a distinctive image.

Those involved included Terry Hanby, a branding expert from Cambridge University, as well as a local design agency, Impact.

Northamptonshire Enterprise Ltd, a company set up as part of the project by the county council, the tourist board and regional business organisations, paid for the new signs to be erected and the old ones removed.

A spokesman for the company – which is represented by an Oxfordshire-based communications company – defended the slogan, saying: “The phrase is something to incorporate what the company stands for.

“It symbolises growth and prosperity and represents our mission to make Northamptonshire and everything within it high-quality.”

However, motorists have criticised the signs.

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “First and foremost signs should give drivers information. Tacking on some sloppy slogan like ‘Let’s make it happen’ seems to be a waste of time and money.

“There’s enough PR speak elsewhere without having it on our roads.”

Marie Clair, from the Plain English Campaign, added: “Northamptonshire seems to be marketing itself as a bag of compost. What is wrong with telling us a little about an area’s history or activities or local features?

“These signs are bizarre, bland, bewildering and banal. These are weird, hippyish phrases that sound like a throwback to the 1960s. They mean absolutely nothing. They tell you nothing.

“These are public information signs. They are meant to tell you something. What is wrong with something clear and informative? It is a disgrace to know the amount of money being spent on them.

“These sorts of signs are infuriating to motorists and yet they give the first impression of a place – and not a good impression.”

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