LONDON The British government has declared war on the profusion of unnecessary road traffic signs, railings and advertising boards, saying they blight towns' English character.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles and Transport Secretary Philip Hammond has written to local council leaders in England, calling on them to cut the number of unsightly signs and other "street clutter."
Even traffic lights are in the firing line.
Ministers want the public to inform local authorities of particularly bad examples of excess signage, to clean up the national landscape.
"Our streets are losing their English character," Pickles said. "We are being overrun by scruffy signs, bossy bollards, patchwork paving and railed-off roads -- wasting taxpayers' money that could be better spent on fixing potholes or keeping council (local) tax down."
The government says that in some cases traffic signs are installed by councils in the mistaken belief they are legally required, when they are not.
Hammond said the abundance of so-called street furniture often makes towns resemble "scrapyards," confusing motorists and obstructing pedestrians.
For signs to be most effective, ministers say, they should be kept to a minimum.
When busy Kensington High Street in central London was stripped of excess road furniture, for example, it helped reduce accidents by 47 percent.
The Department for Transport is reviewing traffic signs policy and new advice on how to reduce clutter will be published later this year.
(Reporting by Stefano Ambrogi; Editing by Steve Addison)