Active Resistance to Metrication
66 Chippingfield, HARLOW, Essex CM17 0DJ Tel: 01279 635789
e-mail: ajsbennett@hotmail.com

Mr Mattingham
Senior Countryside Development Officer, Parks and Landscape Department
St. Helens Borough Council
Town Hall
Victoria Square
ST. HELENS
Merseyside
WA10 1HP
Thursday 20 June 2002

Attn.: Mr Rick Rogers, Countryside Development Officer
e-mail: rick_rogers@sthelens.gov.uk

Dear Sirs

re: Unpopular and Illegal Metric Signs  Newton Heritage Trail,
Newton-le-Willows; Stage 1  Complaints Procedure

Further to my recent telephone call, I write to make representations under your Complaints Procedures about the fingerpost signs and displays along the Newton Heritage Trail being in metric units only.

The illegality of metric pedestrian signs

The signs along the trail are illegal  i.e. they are not permitted by the Traffic Signs Regulations (TSRGD) 1994. As recent case law shows, in particular the R. v. Jones case in the House of Lords, distance signs must comply with the TSRGD if they are placed on the public highway. A team from Active Resistance to Metrication has inspected the signs in question after receiving a complaint from a member of the public and all the signs we refer to are indeed what is defined legally as on the public highway.

Confirmation of the illegality of metric pedestrian signs has come from many sources including Mr Barry Smith, Chief Solicitor for Portsmouth City Council which erected some metric signs in error and East Cambridgeshire, Arun, and Amber Valley District Councils.

If you are in doubt that we are correct on this point you should check with your legal department. You may also care to visit the website of the U.K. Metrication Association which promotes the metric system. It concedes on its Home page that the United Kingdom is the only country in
the world where metric signage is illegal.

The unpopularity of metric pedestrian signs

A raft of surveys has shown that despite nearly 30 years of metric education in schools, the vast majority of old and young people in Britain prefer to use and normally think in Imperial units. The very latest confirmation of this came in an independent poll carried out a the request of a Mr Cairns by the respected pollsters ICM. Between 26 and 28 April 2002, 1,001 people were survey from age 18 upwards. The two ‘headline’ conclusions of the poll were:
(1) only 4% of British people normally thought in kilometres and metres, and
(2) 86% of British people would prefer road and pedestrian signs to be in miles and yards rather than in kilometres and metres, while only 8% preferred signs in kilometres and metres. The proportions were identical for people aged 18-24, thus roundly defeating the common but false claim that younger people normally think in metric because of their receiving metric lessons at school.

Against that background, ARM asks you to comply with the law and the overwhelming preference of the people by:

(a) converting all the signs along the Newton Heritage Trail to yards and/or miles where appropriate, and
(b) changing the display boards around the trail so that they read in miles, yards and feet, not kilometres and metres.

In addition, we request an explanation for why you have departed from the system used throughout our road, highway and footpath network for your trail, and the one which is preferred by the overwhelming majority of the British people. It must be remembered that officials are there to carry out the wishes and preferences of the people and not to pursue agendas of their own. If people feel their wishes are ignored by officials who think they can do what they like, public confidence in officialdom is eroded. Did you take into account public opinion on this issue before you erected your metric signs?

ARM has a track record of converting illegal metric signs into Imperial units using professional techniques to give motorists and pedestrians clear and attractive signs in the units they prefer – in this case miles and yards.

We would much prefer to avoid the necessity for taking direct action ourselves or through our contacts in your area. Many Councils readily concede that they are in error, are grateful to us for pointing it out, and arrange prompt correction of the signs. We trust St. Helens Borough Council will be among them.

We therefore invite you to inform us in the next 21 days that you will convert the signs and displays to Imperial units within a stipulated time schedule.

This should be recorded as a formal complaint under your Complaints Procedure and in due course we will need to know if our complaint is upheld or rejected.

Yours faithfully

Tony Bennett
Chairman, Council of ARM

Copy to Mr V Linacre, Director, British Weights and Measures Association

____________________________________________________________________________________________
Active Resistance to Metrication
66 Chippingfield, HARLOW, Essex CM17 0DJ Tel: 01279 635789
e-mail: ajsbennett@hotmail.com

Mr R.C. Hepworth
Director of Urban Regeneration and Housing, St. Helens Metropolitan Borough Council
St. Helens Borough Council
Town Hall
Victoria Square
ST. HELENS
Merseyside
WA10 1HP

Saturday 20 June 2002

Attn.: Mr Bob Massingham
e-mail: rick_rogers@sthelens.gov.uk
and bobmassingham@sthelens.gov.uk

Dear Hepworth

re: Unpopular and Illegal Metric Signs Newton Heritage Trail,
Newton-le-Willows; Stage 2  Complaints Procedure

Thank you for your letter of 15 July.

Although your letter does not say so specifically, we must assume that you have rejected our complaint. We must therefore now move to Stage 2 of your Complaints procedure. Please ensure that my letter of 20 June, and this one, are forwarded to your Complaints Investigation Officer without delay. And then please let us have the name and address of that officer.

I will respond to your letter paragraph by paragraph, dealing just with matters of relevance.

Para. 1

The uncertainty about who to contact in the Council was caused by incorrect information supplied by your staff, who were themselves uncertain about who was responsible.

If your waymarking is in future given just in miles and yards, you will not have any problems. Signs in miles and yards both comply with the law, and are helpful to the overwhelming majority of British people who understand them and neither understand nor prefer kilometres and metres. Please see attached summary details from the recent independent ICM survey.

Para. 2

With due respect, the signs along your Heritage Trail are illegal. Let me give you just one example. Signs in Lee Valley Park have for a number of years been erected in kilometres and metres. Fed up with Lee Valley Park Authority failing to comply with the law, members of ARM converted many of their signs professionally into miles and yards. Please see press cuttings and enclosed ARM postcard No. 1. As a result of these signs being amended, I was arrested by the Police. However, as the second enclosed press cutting clearly shows – after Lee Valley Park took Counsels advice, they agreed that their signs were illegal and are now in the process of putting the signs back into legal miles and yards. The Police investigation into me has of course been dropped. I am confident that Lee Valley Park would disclose their legal advice to you although they will not to us. This legal advice, of course, matches that received by many other Councils where we have amended illegal signs that Councils refused to amend.

In Ely, for example, 122 distance signs were professionally converted by us to miles and yards. The Council left our signs in place and much to the delight of visitors to Ely, our attractive amendments remain in place and of course comply with the law. Ely is within East Cambridgeshire District Council. It is clear from your letter that you have not taken detailed legal advice on the matter. It is vital that you do so to ensure that you comply with the law.

The recent case of DPP v Jones in the House of Lords is relevant to the issue of what constitutes correct signing on public highways and even our vigorous opponents the U.K. Metrication Association concede on their national website that “Britain is the only country in the world which still bans metric units on distance signs”. You should also pay particular attention to Schedule 7 Part VII of the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions (pp. 227-229) and to Regulation 11 (1).

Our local inspector noted that you had used a very cheap form of lettering on your signs – one that would not survive adverse weather for very long. On some of them, the lettering had come off completely or was peeling off. Incidentally none of our members or supporters would remove metric lettering although as you know in certain circumstances we would replace the signs with professional amendments in legal, Imperial, units, wher Councils do not abide by the law.

The metal plates, paint and lettering we use on our amendments are very long lasting and moreover we use Department of Transport superior-quality external reflective lettering to indicate the correct distances in miles and yards. This is paid for by generous individual donors concerned to maintain an important part of Britain’s heritage.

We make you this offer. We will co-operate with your staff in identifying the appropriate distances in miles and yards. These will mostly be in units of ¼ mile, being best understood by the British mind, including younger people, as any survey would indicate. Distances of under ¼ mile would be given to the nearest 50 yards. We will then pay for the work to be carried out by one of our professional signing teams.

Para 3.

With the greatest of respect, it is not your project managers job, nor that of the Council, to move the process of metrication forward. His job, and that of the Council, is to comply with the law, where distance signing is concerned and generally to serve the public (a concept we find is increasingly forgotten by officials these days). The ICM survey I have referred to makes it abundantly clear that the overwhelming majority of the British public would wish to see directional and distance signs in miles and yards. If your Council had undertaken even minimum consultation with the public on this issue, it would have found the same. Your authority is acting contrary to the wishes of the public in this respect.

Para 4.

It is most regrettable that you appear to have given a misleading impression of our correspondence to two separate local groups. Please identify all those who attended those groups and ensure that each member who attended is given a copy of both our letters and the enclosed press cuttings. They will then be able to judge for themselves the rights and wrongs of this dispute. Your use of the pejorative term deliberate vandalism in your letter clearly demonstrates that you did not present information about ARM’s work to these groups in a neutral manner.

Para 6.

This is a sensible idea. Please consult with our group in future whenever your Council is publishing any information in which reference is made to distances, dimensions and weights of measures of any kinds, and ensure that our name and address is given to relevant Council departments for that purpose.

Finally, please copy this letter to all those listed at the end of your letter as receiving copies of it – and please also supply us with their addresses so that we may communicate with them direct and set the record straight.

We will defer any proposed action to render your illegal signs legal for a further 21 days in order for you to consider the content of this letter. If you decide to seek Counsels Opinion, or obtain that supplied to Lee Valley Park, and as a consequence need longer than 21 days, please inform us without delay.

We await your early response.

Yours sincerely,

Tony Bennett
Chairman, Council of ARM

Copy to Mr V Linacre, Director, British Weights and Measures Association

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Active Resistance to Metrication
66 Chippingfield, HARLOW, Essex CM17 0DJ Tel: 01279 635789
e-mail: ajsbennett@hotmail.com

Mr R.C. Hepworth
Director of Urban Regeneration and Housingl
St. Helens Metropolitan Borough Council/St. Helen’s Borough Council
Town Hall
Victoria Square
ST. HELENS, Merseyside
WA10 1HP

Monday 5 August 2002

Attn.: Mr Rick Rogers, Countryside Development Officer
e-mail: rick_rogers@sthelens.gov.uk
and bobmassingham@sthelens.gov.uk

Dear Mr Hepworth

re: Unpopular and Illegal Metric Signs  Newton Heritage Trail,
Newton-le-Willows; Stage 2  Complaints Procedure

Thank you for your letter of 30 July. Although your letter suggests that we speak with Mr Marc Cole, we feel it is right to address this letter to yourself and trust you will forward a copy to Mr Cole if you feel this is necessary.

There have been four very significant recent developments on the issues surrounding illegal footpath signs since we wrote our last letter. These are set out in the enclosed three documents:
1. Letter from the Department of Transport dated 16 July confirming the
illegality of metric signs on any public highway
2. Our completion (on Friday 2 August) of amendment of signs belonging to Crawley Borough Council, following the dropping of an investigation against us
3. A recent press story referring to the Public Rights of Way Officer in Basildon Council himself spraying out illegal metric distance signs. You will appreciate that we do not merely cover over illegal metric distances; we use professional techniques to leave a nice-looking and permanent sign in Imperial measures in its place
4. The dropping of another investigation against us, concerning the amendment of signs in Lee Valley Park, when Lee Valley Park took legal advice from a barrister and were told their footpath signs were illegal.

Please take these into account in your considerations. Please note that we will not accept delaying tactics similar to those used by other Councils such as we are giving it due consideration, or we will amend them when finances permit. We confirm we are happy to talk to you about the process of rendering the signs in Newton-le-Willows legal.

We await your early response.

Yours sincerely,

Tony Bennett, Chairman, Council of ARM

Copy to Mr V Linacre, Director, British Weights and Measures Association