The propaganda tactics of a militant pro-hunting group will come under the spotlight next week because of damage inflicted on more than 100 Cheshire road signs.
Councillors will discuss political graffiti sprayed and fly-posted on highway signs on main routes across the country including the A41 and A49. The damage raised road safety implications and has a financial impact because it will cost thousands of pounds to repair and replace the signs.
The worst damage has been caused by the use of green Union Jack stickers – the slogan of the Real Countryside Alliance – which are impossible to remove without running reflective qualities so important at night. The stickers are emblazoned with mottos such as Rural Rebels, Hunting is Freedom and No to Hunting Ban.
Country council spokesman Ian Callister said: ‘Over the past three months there has been a spate of fly-posting road signs with green self-adhesive Union Jack stickers which bear the slogan The Real Countryside Alliance. Many of the signs that have been involved are reflective and attempted removal, with or without the use of solvents, frequently causes damage to the surface.
‘Repair of the damaged area is impossible and replacement of the complete fascia is likely to be a highly expensive operation. Anything with blacks out an area of the reflective sign is potentially a hazard particularly at night-time. It is an offence under the Highways Acts punishable by a fine of up to £2,500 for each sign.’ Mr Callister said the engineering board would consider the issue including whether to involve the police.
Chris Owen, a League Against Cruel Sports spokesman, claimed he had counted more than 60 stickers on direction signs, speed limit signs and chevron signs on various roads, especially the A49 near Sandiway, close to the Cheshire Hunt kennels. He said: ‘Apart from the cost there are road safety implications, many signs are unreadable and the graffiti is distracting to motorists, especially when it appears on the chevron signs, on hazardous bends. It is clear these are undemocratic and dangerous tactics being carried out by people who recognise the days of their so-called sports are numbered.’
The so-called Real Countryside Alliance (RCA) was first of in May, when a giant poster representing the group was unveiled in London. Its members, who refuse to reveal their identities, have daubed their propaganda on road signs across the country. On theory is that the RCA has been set up by disillusioned members of the Countryside Alliance who believe its leadership is not militant enough.