Sign u-turn

A U-TURN has been made after misleading road signs prompted protests. Advice to avoid the area and notification of major road closures led to outrage from Hitchin s business community, which is hoping for the busiest day of trading so far this year

A U-TURN has been made after "misleading" road signs prompted protests.

Advice to "avoid the area" and notification of "major road closures" led to outrage from Hitchin's business community, which is hoping for the busiest day of trading so far this year at Easter.

Shops feared that hordes of customers driving in would be turned away by the signs.

But now an agreement has been reached that will ensure instructions to visitors are re-worded.

The signs are part of the town's preparations for the Vaisakhi Festival, which will see a rolling procession pass through Hitchin's streets, and they have been erected alongside major roads into the town.

But they have infuriated traders.

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They are concerned that "trade will be killed" by the signs, which they say instruct drivers to steer clear of the area.

The Vaisakhi Procession falls on Easter weekend (April 15), a time when shops and markets hope to be at their busiest after the slower months of January and February.

Keith Hoskins, town centre manager, said: "We want to welcome people to come to Hitchin, watch the procession and celebrate our multicultural diversity.

"It's about celebration, not putting up barriers.

"The shops and markets will be trading as usual."

The signs were put up by contractors who were in consultation with Herts County Council, the district council and Herts Police.

John Thorn, police traffic planning officer, said: "Our responsibility is towards the travelling public and to minimise people being inconvenienced by sitting in queues.

"But 'avoid the area' will be replaced with 'congestion expected' over the next few days."

Mr Hoskins said on behalf of businesses: "We're very pleased that there are going to be some amendments."

The Vaisakhi Procession is a welcome festivity in the town, bringing in onlookers and participants on what is the most important date in the Sikh calendar, marking New Year.

* All churches will be celebrating with a procession through Hitchin on Good Friday.

The march will begin at Bancroft at 10am and lead to Market Place where a short service will be held.

On Easter Sunday at St Mary's Church, a communion service will take place at 9.35am.