England’s newest national park spends nearly £500,000 on rusty metal and wooden signs
- A row broke out after bosses at South Downs National Park made the investment
- The aim of the signs is to reflect the area’s history of ironwork and its landscape
- But chiefs were warned to ‘get value for hard-earned cash’ following the saga
England’s newest national park is at the centre of a row over plans to splurge nearly £500,000 on rusty metal and wooden signs.
South Downs National Park, which covers 627 square miles between Winchester in Hampshire and Beachy Head in East Sussex, has already installed 19 hand-crafted boundary signs at a cost of £193,549 – the equivalent of £10,186 each.
They are designed to reflect the local tradition of ironwork with white lettering that chimes with the iconic chalk landscape.
Rusty signs: Bosses at South Downs National Park are counting the cost of a £500,000 bill for rusty signs
But critics claim the bill is nearly ten times the cost of those at the nearby New Forest National Park, which spent £1,000 on its large signs and £541 on smaller ones.
Despite objections, there are plans to spend a further £285,000 on 32 more signs after the South Downs National Park Authority gave itself permission to go ahead.
Opened in 2011, the park attracts 16 million visitors a year. The SDNPA says the signs ‘create a positive sense of arrival so that people understand this is a unique landscape that deserves special care and attention’.
But John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘The public sector pleads poverty but it’s hard to see why when so much money is lying spare to fork out for fancy signs. Wasteful quangos have to learn how to get value for hard-earned cash.’
The park’s chief executive, Trevor Beattie, said: ‘Through history, boundary markers have used local materials to reflect a community’s pride in its place. These bespoke signs are part of that tradition.’