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A taskforce of Masham businesses are heading out towards the A1 this morning to build and erect their own tourist sign.
Masham was wiped off the map after its brown tourist signs were removed following the upgrade of the A1(M).
The Highways Agency quoted the town a £36,000 figure for signs to Masham, but the figure was branded “staggering” by Ripon MP Julian Smith.
“Businesses have come together to help us fund the new sign, which has been designed by local artists,” said Gaynor Pearson, who runs ArtisOn art studio and workshop, which helped create the sign.
“We run courses at the weekend and we get people coming from across the country. We get some many visitors who are coming up the A1, arriving late and getting hassled because there is nothing to direct them to Masham,” she said.
“If this sign has the effect of getting the Highways Agency to sit up and listen then great. But it will also be great if it has the effect of just helping people find Masham.”
A coalition of six Masham businesses – breweries Black Sheep and Theakstons, feedmills I’Ansons and Jamesons, the Old Station Caravan Park and luxury hotel Swinton Park – contributed money towards the new £3,000 sign, £33,000 cheaper than the original Highways Agency price tag.
Since the signs were removed, businesses in Masham reported up to a 30 per cent decline in visitor numbers and Old Station Café – owned by campaigner Flo Grainger – has to reduce its opening hours.
Susan Briggs, of Dales Tourism, told the Gazette: “It was a Yes Minister style cock-up and it was stroppy women who came to the rescue.”
Two signs directing southbound traffic to Masham from junction 51, Leeming Bar, were installed as part of the road improvements at no cost to the community, but signs directing northbound traffic to Masham from junction 50, Baldersby would cost the community at least £36,000 according to the Highways Agency.
Mr Smith lobbied the Highways Agency to replace the signs, but the agency refused to lower the cost.
On hearing news of this morning’s grass-roots action, Mr Smith said: “The community of Masham have always been determined to ensure visitors coming from the A1(M) can find their town and their latest efforts demonstrate that entrepreneurial spirit.
“I know the town continues to strive for having brown signs directly on the motorway and I will continue to support those efforts.
“Ensuring that tourists can find Masham is vitally important to the area’s economy, particularly with major events on the horizon like the Tour de France’s Grand Départ which passes through the area next year.”
Mr Smith tweeted that he is “really pleased to see things are progressing” this morning.