A sign of the times - the tale of toad road

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A man ‘mystified’ by the erection of four warning signs depicting frogs or toads at a crossroads in Slaugham was left even more frustrated this week after learning they are to be replaced by new ones, at even greater expense.

In a candid response from Louise Goldsmith (Con, Chichester West), the leader of West Sussex County Council, to Colin Smith, 65 of Coos Lane, Slaugham, it was revealed that not only were the signs incorrectly put up in August, but they were also the wrong type of sign.

JPCT 041013 Colin Smith - questions the need for toad road signs in Slaugham. Photo by Derek Martin

JPCT 041013 Colin Smith - questions the need for toad road signs in Slaugham. Photo by Derek Martin

Animal lover Mr Smith, who says he and his fellow residents have repeatedly petitioned for better gritting in the area and for the drains to be improved, is ‘concerned the local authority could get itself into such a state’ and waste taxpayers’ money.

“We need more salt and the drains sorting,” he said. “We’ve been battling for years and they keep saying they’ve got no money and yet they can afford to blow all this money on the wrong signs!”

Now, the ‘wrong signs’ are to be replaced with new ones, said Mrs Goldsmith, who informed that there are ‘strict controls over the use of the sign, such that it should only be displayed between the months of February and May, and only at sites that are approved as migratory amphibian crossing points by the Secretary of State’. 

Furnace Pond and the surrounding road network, including the Coos Lane and Hampshire Lane crossroads in question, became an approved site in October 2012.

JPCT 041013 Colin Smith - questions the need for toad road signs in Slaugham. Furnace Pond, Slaugham. Photo by Derek Martin

JPCT 041013 Colin Smith - questions the need for toad road signs in Slaugham. Furnace Pond, Slaugham. Photo by Derek Martin

However, Mrs Goldsmith admitted their plan to erect temporary signs, which cost nearly £800, for the 2013 migratory season was implemented six months late.

“Unfortunately, due to a miscommunication, the temporary signs were not provided in time and only placed in August,” she wrote.

“There are further works pending to remove these and replace them with signs which will be of a flap type, so that the warning will only be visible during February to May, and at other times will appear blank.”

Mr Smith was unimpressed by this latest revelation. “They’ve compounded it now,” he said. “And they’ve done all of this on the basis of one request by one unnamed resident of the area.

“Our experience is that normally if one person around here asks for anything they don‘t get anything – we have to really push like mad, but they seem to have reacted to one person and I just don’t understand it quite honestly.”

Mr Smith reflected on the village being stranded for five days after heavy snowfall in recent years, and stressed that inadequate salt supplies and gritting is of far greater concern to those living in the area than the provision of signs warning about frogs or toads crossing the road.

Mrs Goldsmith did apologise, saying: “I am sorry that provision of these signs has not been well received in the local community, but can assure you there is a justified reason for their provision.”

She added that while the county council is not required to consult parish councils on such issues, in this case ‘it would have been appropriate for Slaugham Parish Council to be notified’.

The whole episode has left Mr Smith feeling both bemused and concerned, and wondering at what expense someone will have to come to lift the flaps on the new signs? A wry suggestion he could put himself forward as a Big Society volunteer was met with a resigned yet good humoured laugh.

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By Theo Cronin | send your stories to theo.cronin@jpress.co.uk or call 01403 751 233 | @theocronin