The market town of Masham in North Yorkshire is celebrating as a permanent brown tourist sign has finally been installed south of Junction 50 on the A1(M). The culmination of an 11-year battle with the Department for Transport and the Highways Agency, the brown sign has been funded by over 20 local businesses and Masham Parish Council at a cost of £7,000.
The new sign is a significant victory for campaigners seeking to restore the flow of passing traffic through Masham and Lower Wensleydale en route to the Yorkshire Dales. However, requests to include ‘Wensleydale’ on the signs have been rejected by the Highways Agency despite the protests of nearby businesses such as Brymor Ice Cream, Jervaulx Abbey and The Blue Lion at East Witton, all contributors to the campaign.
The ‘Masham on the Map’ campaign began following the removal of Masham’s original signage during the upgrade of the A1(M) in 2005. Led by the town’s MP Julian Smith and Councillor Flo Grainger, the task force sought to reinstate the signs with the support of numerous local businesses, which were affected by the estimated 30% drop in visitor numbers.
In 2013 the campaign suffered a set back when a temporary sign, funded by the area’s business community and erected in a field adjacent to the A1(M), was ordered to be taken down by Harrogate Borough Council. However the sign was reinstated in 2014, exploiting a planning amnesty for the Tour de France, where it has remained ever since pending permission for a permanent sign.
Simon Theakston, Executive Director of T&R Theakston Ltd, said:
Following a long, hard battle against stubborn bureaucracy, common sense has finally prevailed. Like everyone else in Masham, I am absolutely delighted that the town is once again back on the map!
Julian Smith, MP for Skipton and Ripon, said:
I am delighted that the Masham Brown sign is finally in place. After six years of campaigning the local community group led by the fantastic Flo Grainger has prevailed. Well done to everyone who has given their support in terms of time and money to make this happen. It will keep Masham on the Map for tourists and visitors alike.
Flo Grainger, Chairman of Masham Parish Council, said:
We are thrilled with this hard fought victory and hugely grateful for the continued support of Julian Smith MP and the local community, without which we would still be invisible from the A1(M).
Masham’s new sign comes as the town prepares for Masham Weekend on 29th, 30th April & 1st May, which will launch a series of initiatives aimed at raising its profile and regenerating business and tourism. These include a revamped market and the opening of a new multi-use games area together with a ‘Make the Most of Masham’ shopping scheme.
A Chronology of the ‘Masham on the Map’ Campaign
- 2005 – Masham Parish Council notified of the upgrade of the A1 from trunk road to Motorway to include closure of B6267 Masham/Thirsk road at Sinderby.
- 2009 – plans for new road layout received by Masham Parish Council. Masham & Wensleydale omitted from proposed Motorway signage as criteria for brown tourist signs not met.
- 2009 – prospective Parliamentary Conservative Candidate Julian Smith lends support to the campaign.
- Feb 2012 – Minister for Transport, Mike Penning, grants permission for brown signs for Masham and the Dales if self-funded by the local community.
- March 2012 – The Highways Agency quotes £182,000 for two brown signs and follower signs.
- March 2012 – after further intervention by Julian Smith MP and the Minister for Transport, the quote is revised to £32,000.
- 2013 – local businesses fund temporary sign designed by local artist Robert Blades at a cost of £2,000, which is erected in a field adjacent to the A1(M).
- November 2013 – Harrogate Borough Council order temporary sign is removed branding the structure ‘illegal’.
- 2014 – temporary sign is reinstated following a planning amnesty on signs for Tour de France events.
- February 2016 – permission granted for brown signage on the A1(M) for ‘Masham’ alongside ‘Rest Area’ at Leeming Bar services. After discussions and FoI requests, the logistics and final cost of £6,340 is agreed in November 2015. Requests for ‘Wensleydale’ to be included are rejected.
- February 2016 – local businesses in Masham and Lower Wensleydale donate funds, contracts are signed, and the brown sign is duly erected on 30 March.