Published: 12/08/2007 00:00 - Updated: 01/02/2010 10:58

County vigilantes seize 'misleading' road signs

James Cunliffe
A group which claims to make boundaries 'accurate' by moving and confiscating roadside signs took four 'Welcome to Bedfordshire' signs from Luton in broad daylight.

Rebel with a cause: Tony Bennett with the county council sign that he moved from Wheathampstead to put up on the A 505 at StopsleyTwo members of the nationwide group, CountyWatch, removed the signs between 9.45am and 3pm on Thursday wearing fluorescent yellow jackets.

One sign was taken from the B653 to Wheathampstead and put up on the A505 near Stopsley. It now stands in front of a 'Welcome to Luton' sign.

The other three signs were taken from outside Keech Cottage Hospice on the A6, the roundabout outside Tesco on the A505, and the B579.

They are being stored at a 'secret depot' the location of which CountyWatch refused to divulge.

In February we reported on the four signs placed by Bedfordshire County Council, which welcome drivers to Bedfordshire as they head out of Luton.

Tony Bennett, who helped found CountyWatch in 2004, said that these signs 'misled the public'.

"We intend to preserve the integrity of Bedfordshire by showing that Luton is part of the county," he said.

"Luton is the main town in the traditional county of Bedfordshire, and letter writers will still routinely address mail to 'Luton, Beds'.

"However, now that Bedford is going to be a unitary authority like Luton, Bedfordshire will start to disappear.

"It will go the way of Berkshire, which, if you look on a map, there is barely anything left of.

Mr Bennett - who claims that 'there is no theft involved' with the actions of his 15-strong group - was involved in a three-day-raid of 40 signs in Lancashire in November 2006.

He plans to return the 'Welcome to Bedfordshire' signs to the county council - if it promises to place them on the 'true' Bedfordshire boundaries to include the town of Luton.

He wrote to them on Friday saying he had confiscated three signs and moved one.

"I am expecting a furious reaction from the authorities. They just don't seem to care about historic counties anymore.

"But in my experience, the public welcome this sort of action," he added.

Mr Bennett was briefly leader of the political party Veritas, and previously founded the 'Metric Martyrs Campaign' attempting to combat the demise of imperial measurements.

County councillor Tom Wootton, Cabinet member for Highways, said: "This is absolutely crazy. We are proud of our county and we like to ensure that visitors are given a warm welcome.

"I'm not sure if Mr Bennett bothered to contact us before he took this action, but he should be made aware that for the last ten years Luton has had responsibility for all of its services.

"The signs on the edge of Luton mark the boundaries of their responsibilities and the beginnings of ours.

"I hope that Mr Bennett will come to his senses and return the signs to the county council as soon as possible."
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