CAMPAIGNERS have hit out at £300,000 of taxpayers’ money being spent on rusty-looking signs.

As previously reported, the South Downs National Park had agreed to spend £10,000 each on 31 signs across the borders of the park.

But critics, including the Taxpayers’ Alliance, claim the bill is nearly ten times the cost of those at the nearby New Forest National Park, which spent £1,000 on its large signs and £541 on smaller ones.

Harry Fone, grassroots campaign manager at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Taxpayers will be rightly furious at this profligacy.

“The public sector pleads poverty on a daily basis, but it’s hard to see why when so much money is lying spare to fork out for fancy signs.

“Wasteful quangos have to look at their better-performing counterparts and learn how to get value for taxpayers’ hard-earned cash.”

One of the signs was already erected along the A32 just outside Wickham, as part of a pilot project. The park authority now want to install 31 more.

The 19 signs created as part of the pilot project cost £36,100 to design, and a further £157,449 to manufacture and install, meaning each sign cost £10,186.

Although production could be slightly cheaper for the next 31 signs the total project could cost as much as £315,782.

A spokesperson for the national park authority said: “The South Downs National Park is an internationally important landscape that has been designated on behalf of the whole nation.

“Before continuing with a second phase of signs, we went to the public to ask them what they thought of the pilot. The response was extremely positive, with many people asking us to do more.

“As a public sector body we will carry out a full tender to ensure we get best value for money, as we did with the pilot stage. While costs have been suggested in some media outlets, we cannot say what the exact costs for the second stage will be as we are still in the process of doing a full public tender.

“The design and manufacture of the pilot signs was £3,500-£5,000 depending on the size. The remaining cost was for safety and installation.

“The goal is to decrease the cost per sign given that some of the safety requirements have already been carried out.”

The metalwork on the signs has been treated to create a rusty appearance which the authority said reflects the South Downs history of ironwork during the 17th and 18th centuries. The metal strips at the top signify the rolling downland. The white lettering is intended to reflect the chalk.

One resident who contacted the Chronicle said: “As they spend our money perhaps it would have been more sensible to have incorporated bike stands, mounting blocks or seats for the tax-paying cyclists, horse riders and ramblers. I’m sure children would have come up with even more innovative ideas.”