NEW guidelines on sponsorship signs for planting schemes at roundabouts in Cornwall could be on the way. The idea is to ensure that drivers are not distracted by inappropriate signs and that the county's highway roundabouts are maintained to a high standard.

But the matter has been highlighted this year by the increasing public interest in enhancing roundabouts and highway verges. At times it has led to offers of sponsorship of planting schemes, and the subsequent erection of sponsorship signs.

One signing at the Trafalgar Roundabout in Truro caused considerable controversary some months ago.

Subsequently all sponsorship signs on roundabouts on county council maintained roads were withdrawn.

Sponsorship signs are considered as advertisements and require planning consent. It is for the county council to determine applications.

"We want to encourage sponsorship schemes, which enable our roundabouts to be maintained to a higher standard than our budget would allow, but it is very important from a road safety point of view that such signs do not distract drivers and cause accidents," said Robert Hichens, for planning and transport.

"Under the new guidelines there will be a prescriptive design and a limit on the number of such signs which should enable us to achieve both these aims."

It is likely that in future any signs should be rectangular in shape and consist of black lettering on a white background with a black border. They must be less than 0.3 square metres in area and no higher than 500 mm above ground level. Once they are erected the county council will own the signs.