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Most recently the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions have told campaigners that the proposed symbol, the capital letter A atop an ionic column, “will not be adequately discernible from a moving vehicle” because it consists largely of lines, a claim they say is based on research and practical experience.

The Antiques Trade Gazette notes, however, that their accepted sign for a country park also consists largely of lines.

The DETR add that they would not authorise new symbols unless they believed that they would be immediately understood by drivers, a policy that seems to fly in the face of the evidence for a number of signs already in use, such as those for a viewpoint, agricultural museum and country park.

They also take issue with the use of the letter A, saying it does not constitute a pictorial representation, although they already authorise the letter ‘i’ to indicate a tourist information point. In addition, the DETR believes that symbols are more easily recognisable if they are in silhouette, but the proposed antiques symbol could be rendered just as easily in silhouette.

Sylvia Vetta, who launched the campaign for a symbol last year from the Didcot Antiques Centre, has already secured the backing of her local MP, South Oxfordshire’s Robert Jackson, in her bid for a usable road sign.

She is due to consult with various trade organisations in the West Country over the next couple of weeks about forming a trade delegation with a view to approaching Culture Secretary Chris Smith directly. She is also confident that the symbol voted for by the trade in last year’s nationwide competition published in the Gazette can be simply adapted to meet the required standard. In the meantime she is encouraging traders to adopt the symbol at fairs and in shop windows to help raise public awareness.