DfT signage reforms 'could leave councils at the mercy of the courts'


Councils could be left at the mercy of the courts if they seek to take of advantage of the Government's plans to radically reform traffic signage, an industry insider has warned. 

The long-awaited overhaul of the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions (TSRGD) document amounts to some of the biggest changes to sign regulations ever seen in this country, however councils face an uncertain future over their implementation both in terms of case law and timing.

Following a series of delays the Government simply 'ran out of time' in this parliament to bring in the statutory instruments necessary to make the changes, which were due to be implemented this spring, according to the chair of the Institute of Highway Engineers’ (IHE) traffic signs panel. 

Simon Morgan said the reforms would not be in place until at least the autumn with a new Traffic Signs Manual unlikely to be seen until 2016.

Mr Morgan described the changes as the ‘IKEA self-assembly’ approach to signage, but warned that authorities would face a degree of uncertainty over whether the new freedoms would be acceptable in the courts.

In particular, it would be unlikely authorities could dispense with all the speed limit repeater signs even though this would be permitted under the new TSRGD, as the courts may find that motorists could expect them to still be present at the frequency recommended in the Traffic Signs Manual.

A technical review of the latest draft is open to consultation on the Department for Transport’s website, with the window for responses closing on 30 April.

The IHE has helped peer review the draft TSRGD, however Mr Morgan revealed that in January there was still no finished document ready for peer review, and even the current consultation draft was incomplete.

The reforms include a wide range of radical changes including a much greater flexibility for local authorities to create their own signs and parking bays as well as removing the legal link between vertical signage and road markings.

The statutory instruments needed to enact the changes have to be laid before MPs and peers for a 21-day period before they come in to force, as they are not deemed urgent.

This has proved impossible this parliament, despite many of the changes having been in the pipeline since the 2011 Signing the Way review.


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