Councillors heed French lesson over signs

ABBOTSFORD, textiles and even mountain biking could be among images used in an effort to revamp existing signage at entry points into the Borders.

However, the estimated cost for replacing the signs across the region is £100,000 – money Scottish Borders Council does not have.

But councillors on SBC executive meeting last week, still approved proposals for a first phase, which involves agreeing the design specifications and ‘branding’ guidelines for the new signs.

This will involve council officers and partners from VisitScotland, BEAR Scotland, and Transport Scotland, as well as SBC.

Phase one will also provide a full breakdown of estimated costs, and options for implementation and will focus on the interpretation/visitor information panels at the key border crossings on the Carter Bar, A1 and A7 to promote more focused visitor information – 
e.g. nearby towns, retail and visitor attractions, nearest place to eat, etc.

The second phase will involve identification of a budget, including research into alternative options such as sponsorship or external funding.

There are no financial implications in delivering phase one beyond use of existing staff and partners’ time.

Councillors also approved a recommendation that officers look at estimated costs and set these in the context of priorities for the budget process for 2013/14 – 2017/18.

It was in March this year that a survey of signs was carried out by council staff, who created a database and photographic record of all visitor signage, and recommendations for which signs should be retained, amended, or removed.

The audit report concluded that the boundary entry points on both the A1 and A7 were cluttered with damaged and non-relevant signage.

The signage on the A68 is in better condition, however, improvements could be made to the associated visitor information.

The existing boundary entry signage was erected in 2003 using the Scottish Borders brand developed by a partnership of SBC, Scottish Borders Tourist Board, and other public sector partners.

The message ‘Scotland’s leading short-break destination’ was originally included underneath the signs, but ditched in 2011 because it was no longer used by VisitScotland to promote the Borders.

Councillors were told an example of good practice was France, where each region has a strong eye-catching image that relays something of the unique flavour of that region to the motorist. Simple imagery is married to only the name of the area drivers are entering.

Council officials will now investigate what single image or multiple images could be used at each location, linked to national and regional branding.

Councillor Stuart Bell (Tweeddale East, SNP), SBC Executive Member for Economic Development, told TheSouthern that, currently, a variety of signs were used across the Borders.

“It is all about encouraging people to visit. Presently at some places there is some clutter and features of the area are not presented very well,” Mr Bell told us. “I think the Borders is an amazing place, but these signs need to be tidied up.

“However, we have no budget for replacing the signs at the moment, so we’re looking at what we can do without incurring any great cost.”

One possibility, says Mr Bell, is where the ‘Scotland’s leading short-break destination’ strapline once featured on existing signs, an alternative promotional message is used.