Metric Views’ attention has been drawn to a Victorian piece of legislation under which signs may be authorised.
It is a common myth that, in the UK, imperial measurements alone are authorised on road and footpath signs showing distance. On its web site, UKMA explains the true position and shows examples of legitimate signs with metric measures:
We are grateful to a rival organisation for pointing out an additional piece of legislation which can be used to authorise the erection of signs, regardless of the measurement units that appear on them. We quote from its newsletter:
“Mr Smith is pursuing Salisbury City and Wiltshire Councils for installing signs displaying distances in kilometres: to Salisbury, North Carolina 6,276km; Salisbury, Maryland 5,750km; Saintes in France 1,061km; and Xanten in Germany 713km.
On 13 September 2011, Mr Smith received the following email from Mark Boden, Corporate Director of Wiltshire Council, claiming the council’s authority for the signs was section 42 of the Public Health Amendment Act 1890:
Dear Mr. Smith
I refer to previous correspondence concerning signs in Salisbury Market Place. I apologise for not having giving a substantive reply sooner but I thought it best to have the council’s officers including the council’s solicitor investigate the matter and advise me.
I understand that the signs concerned were erected in 2008 to commemorate the links of the city of Salisbury with its twin towns. I am advised that, under section 42 of the Public Health Amendment Act 1890, Salisbury District Council was entitled to erect the signs as a monument. Please note that Wiltshire Council is empowered under the same legislation to maintain the signs.
… section 42 is still in force and has not been repealed by any subsequent legislation. It makes no specific provision as to the form of any such monument, including any wording or numbering on it. Accordingly the signs can lawfully remain in Salisbury Market Place and in their original form. Please note that I cannot therefore share your view that the Council, its members or officers have committed a crime or otherwise acted inappropriately in this matter.
Yours sincerely, etc
Editor’s note: this was the first time in twelve months of correspondence that the Public Health Amendment Act 1890 had been identified; its wording is as follows: Statues and monuments. Any urban authority may from time to time authorise the erection in any street or public place within their district of any statue or monument, and may maintain the same, and any statue or monument erected within their district before the adoption of this part of this Act, and may remove any statue or monument the erection of which has been authorised by them.”
We have changed the name of the person pursuing the enquiry to “Mr Smith”.
Readers may be surprised that anyone would regard the sign in Salisbury Market Place as a road traffic sign covered by the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions (TSRGD). Surely, Mr Smith did not expect to be able to jump into his car, set off in the direction indicated by the sign and end up several days later in Salisbury, North Carolina.
But leaving aside such nonsense, this correspondence illustrates an important issue. UKMA believes that our country needs a single system of measurement, used for most purposes and with which everyone is familiar. Having two or more systems is not a luxury but a handicap. For many years, business, industry, the scientific establishment and consumer groups, for example, have accepted this but successive UK Governments and in particular the UK Department for Transport have not. Until they do, there will be many, like Mr Smith in Salisbury, who will not accept that Britain needs to move on and leave behind its imperial past in order to survive and prosper in an increasingly competitive (and metric) world.