Active Resistance to Metrication:- From the Office of the Chairman:

Mr Derek Norman,
Meadowbank’, 9 Station Cottages, Brampton Road, HUNTINGDON, Cambridgeshire, PE29 3BW

Tel: 01480 435837

Mrs L J Knowles,
Clerk to the Bradninch Town Council Monday 11 August 2003
Bradninch Town Council
c/o 19 Fore Street,
Bradninch
EXETER
Devon
EX5 4NN

Dear Mrs Knowles

re: Professional Amendment of Illegal Metric Footpath Sign – Bradninch

Thank you for your letter dated 5 August addressed to our Information Officer Miss Peck based here in the County of Huntingdonshire, which no longer exists as a result of government-imposed changes. As a matter of interest, your County of Devon will also no longer exist in a few years time. This is because Devon and other South-West Counties will come under the long-planned proposed Euro-region of South West England, and the whole region will be carved up into unitary authorities (i.e. with the abolition of Counties and Districts) , as is happening elsewhere in the country (for more information, see www.regional-assemblies.co.uk). Indeed, we have seen drafts prepared by the European Commission in conjunction with the South West Regional Assembly (unelected) – and from this draft plan for the future local government of your area, it is clear that no historic County boundary anywhere on the so-called South-West Region will be retained. Oh, and they plan to reduce the powers of Parish and Town Councils as well, if not abolish them altogether.

The following factual points are relevant to your letter:

(1) Metric distances and dimensions are illegal on all roads, footpaths and all highways to which the public has access, even footpaths or roads across private land, so long as the public has access to them. This legal position was confirmed in the 1994 Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions, which came into effect shortly before you ordered and erected your illegal signpost. You appear to have received poor advice from Mid Devon District Council and Devon County Council at that time. The Regulations were recently updated in the 2002 Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions (S.I. 2002 No. 3113). The only permissible metric signs on British roads and footpaths are on bridge heights and road widths, which may be in metric as well as Imperial measurements (a recent survey by ARM showed that fewer than 1% of all height and width measurements are in both Imperial and metric, which after all both costs extra money and adds a source of confusion)

Even bridge heights and road width restriction signs may not be in metric only. This position can be checked by writing to the Traffic Signs Policy Division of the Department for Transport. It may interest you to know that on 12 July 2002, Mr Mike Talbot, the Head of that Division, wrote to all Chief Executives of England and Wales, including of course the Chief Executive of Devon, reminding authorities of their legal duty always to show Imperial distances and dimensions on their signs. No doubt the Chief Executive (or Mr Talbot himself) would supply a copy of that letter to you. This round robin letter followed actions by several of our supporters to correct illegal metric signs where authorities like yourselves refused to remove the illegal measurements.

(2) Second, the painting-over of the metric distances with lurid bottle green paint on the instructions of your Council only made the existing situation worse. When our supporter arrived to correct the illegal measurements, he found that the letters m or km meaning metres or kilometres were still perfectly visible despite the bottle green paint. Indeed the sign looked unsightly because it had been sprayed with an ugly green paint which did not harmonise with the rest of the sign.

(3) Third, as you may be aware, the gold lettering which you value so highly was in a very poor state of repair. On those fingers facing the prevailing south-west winds, the gold covering (a very cheap substance, we suspect  who did you order it from?) had completely come off in places, leaving ugly light grey/dirty white surface underneath. Besides that, gold lettering on a light green background is very poor on visibility grounds, as any physicist or oculist could confirm. I expect you know that black-on-white (or vice-versa) is the most visible of all colour combinations. That is why they are used for road signs. Yellow-on-black or black-on-yellow is a good substitute but not quite so clear (loss of a few few per cent visibility) and is in any event associated with danger, as in nature. Gold on green has a very poor visibility rating by comparison.

(4) A raft of eight independent surveys carried out over the past 7 years has conclusively shown that over 70% of the population, young and old, prefer to use Imperial measurements and understand them better. or example, a survey carried out by ICM earlier this year showed that only 2% of British people did not know their height in feet and inches (probably new arrivals to this country) while 71% (35 times as many) did not know their height in metres. There is similar ignorance in terms of understanding distance. British people use feet, yards and miles, despite attempts by the European Union, the government and the BBC to make us think differently. Still more relevant, last year between 26 and 28 April, ICM polled 1,005 people in the U.K. aged 18-plus. Asked if they preferred miles and yards or kilometres and metres on signposts, 86% said Miles and Yards against 8% preferring kilometres and metres, with 6% Don’t Know or Don’t Care. The figures were identical for 18-24 year-olds.

Our supporter performed a valuable public service in placing clear, attractive black-and-white plates and lettering over your illegal metric distances, and moreover took up valuable time which could have been used to cover up other metric distances in the area by lovingly using a specially-bought hard-wearing white gloss paint to cover over the faded and worn gold lettering. The white lettering used by our supporter on the black plates is reflective adhesive lettering of Department for Transport superior quality and glows in the dark because of its reflective qualities – again making the new lettering far superior to the lettering you commissioned in 1994. Not only that, but the lettering used by our supporter is 2¼” high, which makes it nearly double the size of the previous lettering. Your signs have been legalised and very substantially improved. And yet you call it Criminal Damage!

We are prepared to help you. Our supporter found that the numerous villagers he spoke to were in total support of the amendments, none of them knowing what distance, for example, 300 metres meant. Indeed one villager went over to the stores and bought a small paintbrush for our supporter so that he could improve the signs visibility.

We do not think your Town Councillors are acting in accordance with your parishioners wishes, which of course should be their function. We suggest that this issue is one which ought to be settled by a peoples referendum, such as that provided for under the Local Government Act 1972. [Incidentally, as any good law volume will tell you, this provision carries forward the practice of local decision-making which was in regular Anglo-Saxon usage even before King Alfred the Great founded the English nation (see plaque in Winchester High Street). Decisions on local, tribal and national matters were taken by a show of hands on the local village mound, known as the moot – hence the origin of the term moot point which was one made in debates held at Anglo-Saxon moots before the vote was taken).

We will pay the reasonable costs of holding such a referendum, in which parishioners should be asked this simple question: Would you like the village signpost at the top of Fore Street to stay in miles and yards rather than changed to kilometres and metres? – Yes or No?. If that referendum produces a majority No vote of those voting, we will:

(a) publicly identify the supporter who took the trouble to amend your village sign, and

(b) send down a representative to Bradninch, at our expense, to repaint the destinations in gold paint. You will be able to specify what gold paint is used and we would respectfully suggest that you should use a more durable one than you did last time.

By the way, you should consider yourselves very fortunate to have gained two of our ARM postcards free. These very popular postcards normally sell at 25p. each.

I await hearing from you as to whether your Council will accept our ‘referendum challenge.

Finally, you state that there were no complaints about your illegal sign until Mrs Gorsuch complained. How many written complaints have you had about the amended sign?

Yours sincerely

Derek Norman,
Fellow-Englishman and Chairman, The Council of Active Resistance to Metrication.