A CAMPAIGN to put Midhurst back on the tourist map has been backed by members of West Sussex County Council’s north local committee.
Chairman of the Midhurst Society Sheila Ryan told the committee the society, along with the town council and MP Andrew Tyrie had all tried to persuade the Highways Agency to reinstate signs to the town from the Hindhead tunnel on the A3.
They have been fighting ever since Midhurst found itself wiped off the tourist map after the opening of the long-awaited tunnel in July, 2010.
Town councillors have so far failed in their bid and Mr Tyrie had also met a brick wall.
Chief executive of the Highways Agency Graham Dalton told the MP: “There remain sound reasons for not signing Midhurst from the new junction and these are in line with the national policy on signing as went out in the Department for Transport traffic signs manual.”
He told Mr Tyrie Midhurst had enjoyed ‘a certain prominence in signing’ in the past because it was listed as a primary route destination.
“However, this status was removed during a review of the list of primary route destinations in 2009 and 2010,” he said.
“We have now included Haslemere on signing because it is the first town off the A3 and this was seen as an omission in the original agreed strategy.”
In response to Mr Tyrie’s claim that traffic had reduced in Midhurst because of the lack of signing the chief executive told him: “The most likely explanation for any reduction in traffic in Midhurst is not lack of signing but transfer of traffic from the A286 to the A3 and the present economic climate.
“Having reviewed the situation, I do not consider that the lack of signing of Midhurst at the new junction is having any material effect on traffic flows through the town and there is no justification for expending additional funds to change the signs.”
Mrs Ryan told county councillors last week the distance from the Hindhead tunnel slip road to Midhurst was 11.5 miles but the distance to the town following the Highways Agency’s current signage to Midhurst from the tunnel was 21.3 miles, taking motorists via Petersfield and along the A272 through Rogate.
She said there was space on the existing sign at Hindhead to include Midhurst and Haslemere had already been included without ‘practical difficulty’.
She added: “Midhurst is not now on the Highways Agency’s list of primary route destinations, not only is Midhurst not on the list, but Haslemere is not on the list either.”
She said all these points had been put to the Highways Agency, but they had been ignored.
Mrs Ryan said the town council was now pursuing the possibility of having a sign at the Milford junction with the A3 and she asked for the support of the committee.
Chairman Michael Brown told her: “It seems to me there is no reason why we should not add our collective weight to the campaign to get Midhurst better signs.”