ROAD signs obscured by trees in Newport are causing havoc for learner drivers and pose a risk to road safety, according to a driving instructor based in the city.

Luke Thompson, who runs the M 4 Motoring driving school in the city, said learners' chances of passing their driving tests were being jeopardised by trees blocking important road signs for things like changes to the speed limit. The council has said cutting work is limited by seasonal protection of nesting birds.

Mr Thompson first raised these concerns with Newport City Council in April and May, and while a council spokeswoman said a response had been issued, the driving instructor said little appeared to have changed on the roads.

"So many [signs] are covered that it becomes very challenging," Mr Thompson said of his driving lessons in Newport. "Driving tests generally use the same routes."

Libby Bradbury, 17, who is learning to drive with Mr Thompson, agreed the obscured road signs were "very challenging" and said the situation made "the whole driving process harder".

"In my most recent lesson I was following road signs to the city centre, then road signs to Cwmbran, and then road signs to the civic centre," she added.

"Most of the road signs directing me to where I was supposed to go were covered by overhanging trees, causing my vision of the road signs to be blocked until almost it was too late, causing my driving instructor to intervene and tell me where to go."

South Wales Argus:

(Driving instructor Luke Thompson)


But the matter is also a general risk to road safety, affecting all drivers, Mr Thompson claims.

"It's poor for people on their tests, but we also need clear signage because of accidents," he said. "If someone comes to Newport and they don't know the signs, it's a real danger – it's going to cause an accident eventually.

"I've raised it on so many levels [with the council] and it's just falling on deaf ears."

Mr Thompson said the worst-affected areas included the signs for the 20 mph limit on Usk Way, near the Friars Walk shopping centre; the 30 mph limit on Belmont Hill, in Caerleon; and the approach to John Frost School, in Duffryn, where a school warning sign was blocked by overhanging branches.

Directional signs "across the city" were also affected, he added.

Mr Thompson said he had been told such tree-cutting was usually done in the autumn.

"It's a bit pointless, waiting until the leaves fall off [the trees] anyway," he said.

In a statement, a council spokeswoman said a "comprehensive response" had been given to Mr Thompson.

"Works have to be carried out at certain times of the year due to bird nesting seasonal protection, in line with best practice guidelines, so this is done in the autumn by the council," she said.

"Inspections and assessments are carried out if reports are received at other times of the year and, if appropriate, action is taken."