By Graham Chalmers
An independent girls school in North Yorkshire is the latest to highlight the problem of signs going missing for community events.
The Harrogate Advertiser Series started reporting on the mystery of the missing signs in villages across the county a month ago and new reports keep coming in.
Now Queen Mary’s School near Thirsk, known in the county for its excellent Chapel Choir, has added its voice to the saga of the strange disappearances from lampposts, walls and roadsides.
Melanie Chapman, head of admissions and marketing at the school, said they had been experiencing a high number of thefts of their banners this year for events such as open mornings and riding events.
She said: “We’ve lost six banners worth more than £100 each over the past few months. We’ve reported the matter to the police, North Yorkshire County Council and Harrogate Borough Council but to no avail.”
The first instance had taken place in March on farmland belonging to her father near the A61, Melanie said.
Determined to persevere, the school, an independent day and boarding school for girls which was established in 1921, paid for new, stronger signs to be made in May and placed in a new position on the A168 road to Boroughbridge.
Melanie said: “I assumed it was a disgruntled villager or a rival school when it first happened. We put the new one in two different places about eight to nine miles apart but they both disappeared within an hour of each other.
“It would have taken a lot of force to remove them.”
Her attempt to help Ripon Cathedral by putting their signs up advertising for choristers also backfired when they, too, disappeared.
She said: “We’re not stealing anyone’s crown jewels or anything, we’re only putting banners up. I’m absolutely baffled.
Suspecting the culprits had to be well organised Melanie reported the disappearances to the police who logged the incidents.
She also phoned round the councils.
“North Yorkshire County Council were brilliant. They even put me in touch with the person in charge of dealing with banners and signs and he said it was a mystery to him, too, as he was fully aware of where we usually put our signs and there wasn’t a problem.
“I don’t think it’s the authorities.”
Undeterred, Queen Mary’s School is set to continue to put up signs for its events.
But one reader on Facebook questioned the whole issue.
Sally Tipping posted: “Generally speaking you’re not allowed to post signs on land belonging to the highways without permission from the highways. There’s guidance published by the government. Not sure why it’s a mystery that signs are being taken down if people are putting them up without obtaining the necessary consent?”
But, from what the Harrogate Advertiser has discovered so far, the issue is not as straightforward.
Should signs for commercial events or activities be treated the same as one for not-for-profit community events?
Should signs on the side of roads be subject to the same official policy as signs in residential streets or public parks?
With two councils affected in theory by the issue, perhaps it’s not even possible to have a clear line or a straight policy on signs?