Hertfordshire's highways budget should not fund ‘Rainbow Crossings’, say councillors

The panel also considered alternative ways that the rainbow motif could be used in the county

Wednesday, 15th September 2021, 1:05 pm
Updated Wednesday, 15th September 2021, 1:06 pm

Calls for ‘Rainbow Crossings’ to be installed across Hertfordshire have been dealt a blow – after county councillors suggested ‘limited’ highways budgets should NOT be used.

The crossings – which feature the ‘rainbow’ or ‘progress pride’ flags – are designed to show support for the LGBTQ+ community.

And in a motion to the full county council in July, Liberal Democrat Cllr Sara Bedford called for one or more crossings in each of the 10 districts to be re-painted.

Progress pride flag (C) Shutterstock

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And – by a majority – they agreed they did ‘not support the use of highways funding for that purpose’.

During the debate executive member for highways and transport Cllr Phil Bibby told councillors the highways budget was limited to the provision of ‘safe and operational’ highways.

And ruling out the funding of the crossings, he said: “The bottom line is we don’t think our limited budgets should be used in this way.”

At the meeting, it was reported that ‘Rainbow Crossings’ had already been installed in ‘several’ authorities nationwide – at signal controlled ‘puffin’ or ‘toucan’ crossings.

But in addition to installation costs of up to £15,000, councillors were asked to consider ongoing maintenance and the works associated with vandalism.

Highlighting the pressure on the highways budget, Conservative Cllr Paula Hiscocks pointed to roads and pavements that needed resurfacing – suggesting that they should be the priority.

“If we had lots and lots of money and an unlimited budget I would definitely say go for it,” she said.

But she later added: “With a limited highways budget, is it right we should be spending £150,000-plus the maintenance and officer time, when we have so much work to do to keep our highways and pavements safe?”

Meanwhile, it was also reported to the panel, that there would be a need to consider whether the crossings created issues for partially sighted people or those who are neurodiverse.

And the report also highlighted a video of two police horses refusing to cross one.

Liberal Democrat Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst suggested that without input from any of the councils that had implemented the crossings, the report was ‘one-sided’.

And he called for council officers to investigate further by contacting other authorities and looking at a trial of materials at an ‘off-highway’ site.

But his request was not agreed by the cabinet panel.

Meanwhile, the panel also considered alternative ways that the rainbow motif could be used in the county – such as on pedestrian railings or metal bollards or in subways.

Conservative Cllr Reena Ranger spoke to support the idea of decorating subways or other structures, such as benches – using local artists or schoolchildren and with the support of the local community.

“I think the point is to be visible and supportive,” she said.

“There are so many other things we can do that will have a longer lasting legacy, a more impactful legacy – and I am not sure an off-highway solution fulfils any of our objectives.”

Ultimately the cabinet panel voted in favour of a recommendation by Cllr Bibby which recognised that around the world the Rainbow Flag is seen as a sign of hope and inclusion and which noted the work of the council in backing and promoting Pride.

However, it said it did ‘not support the use of highways funding for that purpose’.

Nevertheless, in light of the discussion, Cllr Bibby said it would be minuted that the county council would look to work with artists and children to provide appropriate art in subways.