A DEMAND for money for new signs to Herefordshire Council's own car parks has been described as "absolutely appalling" and "out of order" by outraged town councillors.

Ledbury Town Council has been told that if it insists on new signs pointing the way to Herefordshire Council's car parks, it must pay for them, even though it is the county council which benefits from the parking revenues.

Town councillor Martin Eager said: "Herefordshire Council's response to this is absolutely appalling. The car parks are their responsibility; - they are their car parks and they should be promoting them. This is wrong."

Coun Eager is a regular volunteer at the Heritage Centre in Church Lane and said he "knew for a fact" that many visitors are struggling to find Ledbury's car parks, are parking up instead in the High Street and are moving on after just one hour.

He fears this is costing the local economy thousands in lost revenue.

To validate the concerns of visitors, Coun Eager recently approached Ledbury as a motorist with the pretence of having no local knowledge.

He discovered that the only town centre sign to the car parks of St Katherine's, Bye Street, Bridge Street and Lawnside Road was on the Bye Street turn near the Alms Houses and it seemed to be pointing "in the wrong direction", up the Homend.

Coun Eager raised his concerns at a recent town council meeting, but the result is that Herefordshire Council wants to town council to cough up, if the town centre signage is to be improved.

Coun Tony Bradford said: "It's out of order. This is the new philosophy now; they want the town council to pick up the mantle of services that can be reduced, which I am to totally against."

Coun Bradford said that if the town council has to spend more on services put aside by Herefordshire Council, it would be "increasing council tax by the back door", because town council precept demands would have to rise.

Town councillor and Homend trader, Annette Crowe said: "We think it should be Herefordshire Council, not the town council that has to pay. If the car parking signage had been done properly the first time round, there would be no need for better signage."

Herefordshire Council communications officer for projects, Michelle Morgan said: "Ledbury Town Council has asked for a number of additional signs to be considered.

"Once that has been considered, the cost will be agreed, if works are to go ahead. The signs are not required from a highways safety perspective and so the town council are at liberty to request additional signs, on the basis they would pay for them."

She added: " Although the council's car parks generate an income, the car park expenditure budget is totally separate from the highways budget which Balfour Beatty manage. Therefore this income could not be used for additional signage on the highway."

There was "no clear answer" concerning the costs of the new signage, because this depended on the size and number of the signs.