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  • Writer's pictureChris Winter

Signage in Wells City Centre

Updated: Jun 12

n.b. Photos to be added to post, post to be formatted.

A survey of the road and street signage in the approximately 1 square mile of Wells City Centre was carried out during January. A description of the sign, its position and any other pertinent information was recorded, with photographs taken of the majority of them, in their context.

  1. Initial observations

  • there are over 200 signs within this area

  • size varies from 15’ high to 7”x3” signs

  • their purposes are traffic (including cyclists), tourist, events, attractions

  • the designs vary from Highway Authority standard to small temporary locally produced signs to indicate the regular markets, and ‘Victorian’ style finger posts.

  • there are many ‘Restricted Zone’ / weight limit signs.

  • at major junctions there is a plethora of signs at each for different purposes

2. Obvious issues that could be dealt with immediately

  • several small signs (eg roundabout sign indicating a mini roundabout at the junction of New St (S) and The Liberty (W)) are un-necessary (i)

  • the 5 signs on one post on the corner of High Street and Sadler St are virtually invisible and therefore useless (ii)

signs around wells
signs around wells

signs around wells

  • the repetition of Restricted Zone signs around the Market Place and in Union Street is un-necessary as other larger signs already indicate this

  • on Princes Street a small cycle way sign is lit, despite its being underneath a street lamp. (iii)

  • very small Restricted Zone signs are repeated along the length of Tucker Street un- necessarily

  • redundant signs have not been removed, nor has the post bearing no sign at all on Whiting Way. (iv)

signs around wells

signs around wells

signs around wells

3. Larger issues which need to be addressed

  • there is no indication at ‘gateways’ – ie: from NE (Bristol), NW (Cheddar), SW (Glastonbury), & SE (Shepton Mallet) of long / short stay parking – which is the most crucial information for visiting motorists

  • drivers visiting Wells following directional signs are often abandoned – ie not directed all the way to their destination – whether or not it is a tourist attraction (eg Wookey Hole) or car parking (eg Union Street car park)

  • brown visitor attraction and City centre signs are confusing and tend to encourage visitors (in cars) to enter the High Street from the NW, instead of following Chamberlain St to the car parks. (v)

  • speed limit signs are repeated seemingly randomly; a Restricted Zone could be clearly indicated on ‘gateways’ into the City – around a defined area - removing the need for numerous, repeated signs. (vi)

  • many signs (especially finger posts) are out of date (eg signage to the Tourist Information Centre which changed location some time ago – this is particularly misleading for visitors – and their first impression of Wells!)... or have been moved to point in the wrong direction (eg corner of Princes Road / St Cuthbert’s Street) On this corner, the sign indicating ‘Unsuitable for buses’ is puzzling – and un-necessary. (vii)

signs around wells

signs around wells

• the advertising plaques on the large signs on the entry routes into Wells do nothing to enhance the visitor’s impression of the City (viii)

signs around wells

signs around wells
  • the condition of the setts at the top of Sadler Street and in the Market Place bears testament to the amount of traffic which takes this route, but for which it was not designed. (ix) This overuse necessitated the re-tarmacing of Sadler Street recently, as the resin surface – part of the expensive and extensive enhancement project - was also not suitable for the current volume of traffic. There is also an ongoing controversy regarding uneven setts in Market Place.

  • It would be interesting to discover whether the many small brown and blue cycle signs ((x) why two different sorts?) are used by anyone. Wells is not a city known for its cycling – although a national race did pass through once last September.

signs around wells

signs around wells

4. Government policy

Following a number of high profile campaigns by key organisations (English Heritage, Historic Towns Forum, Civic Trust etc) to reduce ‘street clutter’, Government policy was changed in order to support this:

Letter to all local authorities from The Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP SoS for Communities and Local Government and The Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP SoS for Transport:“Street furniture, including traffic signs and railings, is often over-provided in the mistaken belief that it is a legal necessity. Whilst certain signs are required by law, the message throughout Government advice is that for signs to be most effective they should be kept to a minimum.”

Press release by CLG & DfT 26 August 2010

“Tony Armstrong, Chief Executive of Living Streets, said:“It’s about time action was taken on our cluttered streets. For too long have pedestrians had to struggle with unnecessary bollards, guard-railing and pointless signs. Community involvement, stronger guidance from central government and a coordinated approach from local councils are all crucial ingredients to rid our streets of unnecessary obstacles for pedestrians. Councils in particular should ensure that de-cluttering is prioritised and championed across all departments.”

“Street Pride is Civic Voice’s national campaign supporting local action to help rid our streets of unnecessary clutter.”

5. Good practice adopted for historic towns and cities nationally

  • Many historic towns have adopted the approach that you may not park unless it is indicated that you can – rather than the opposite assumption.

  • Many towns and cities across the UK maintain a consistency of design on all signs which reinforces the sense of the place and civic pride which in turn enhances the economic vibrancy of the place.

  • Projects across the country have reduced street clutter by rationalising signage without negative impact on safety or congestion.

Fewer signs have more impact and are more likely to be effective than the visual overload currently experienced by drivers in Wells.

6. Conclusion

The sheer number and size of the signs indicate the domination of the car in the City; the pedestrian is barely acknowledged or catered for – not reflecting the ‘human scale’ – which is what the City essentially is, and has managed to maintain in its footprint and the scale of buildings and development. The signage is out of keeping with the scale and grain and historic environment of the city.

An implicit boundary around the historic city centre could be indicated at the four main entry points with information to indicate the parking options, speed restrictions and directions. This has been very successful in Bury St Edmunds and many other places.

The MDC’s Parking and Signage Strategy of 2008 is out of date and does not take account of Wells’ special status as one of the key visitor attractions in the region.

A fresh look at the signage and parking to ensure that it meets the needs of residents and visitors would help to maintain and enhance the vitality and viability of the City Centre, which is threatened by the current economic situation and without due care and attention, will suffer the fate of many high streets and small towns.

References & notes:

Places, Streets and Movement: A good practice guide 1998

“Streets are places for meetings, socialising and exchange, not just for traffic.”

A whole chapter is devoted to “Look at the place not the car”

“Historically most places have had a network of spaces, whether they be a medieval market town, an eighteenth century spa, or a Victorian suburb. The hierarchy of such places can often be easily recognised, even by a first time visitor, and though the functions of the town may have

changed the layout remains the key to people’s understanding of where they are. The hierarchy inherent in the layout frequently has an effect in calming and filtering the traffic, even though that was not the main preoccupation of those who originally laid out the town.”

“20mph Speed Limit Zones: 20mph zone signs must be erected at all entrances to a zone. Within the zone neither 20mph repeat signs nor traffic calming signs (e.g. signs for road humps, chicanes) are required. Therefore a high quality, uncluttered environment can be more easily achieved. At all exits to a zone, a sign indicating the speed limit of the adjoining road must be displayed.”

“The creation of gateways is recommended at the entrances to zones, along with a change in surfacing material or texture. These inform drivers that they are entering an area of special character within which they must behave accordingly.”

“A public realm which is safe and well cared for is a good reason to walk.”

“Street furniture must be of a durable nature and resistant to vandalism. It should fit into and complement the local context of an area. Use of signs should be minimised.”

Manual for Streets (Summary) 2007

“The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002 (TSRGD) details every traffic sign and road marking prescribed for use in the UK. Compliance with TSRGD is mandatory but it only sets out what is required of a sign if it is to be installed. There is a statutory duty to sign restrictions or prohibitions, but it is for the designer to determine how they should be signed, and whether each sign is necessary to comply with that duty. The amount of signing should be no more than is necessary.”

“Designers should begin by assuming a total absence of signs and introduce them only where they serve a clear function. To be most effective, signs should be used sparingly.”

“There is no statutory requirement for priority to be specified at junctions.”

“Guard railing should not be provided unless a clear need for it has been identified.”

DfT & CLG 2007 Chapter 9 Traffic signs and marking

“It is recommended that street signs are periodically audited with a view to identifying and removing unnecessary signs.”

“There is, however, no statutory requirement for junction priority to be specified.”

Streets for All South West English Heritage 2006 Part 3 pp34/35

Manual for Historic Streets EHTF 2008


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