THE long-term legacy of the Tour de France is being put in jeopardy – by thieves seeking mementoes of North Yorkshire’s historic Grand Depart.

Metal signs marking the route have been disappearing from the roadsides – and some have even turned up on internet auction sites.

The signs – which cost between £100 and £300 - were designed to be permanent fixtures to allow enthusiasts to follow in the wake of their cycling heroes in future years.

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North Yorkshire County Council put up more than 50 of the signs in its area but between 15 and 20 have disappeared in the last few weeks.

Now police are trying to trace the culprits and are appealing for anyone with information to contact them.

Inspector Chris Galley said: “These signs have been removed from street furniture and worryingly some have been put up for sale using internet selling sites.

“The signs are the property of North Yorkshire County Council and provide a lasting legacy marker of the route which should be for all road users to enjoy for years to come.

“North Yorkshire Police have recovered two signs and remain vigilant to others going missing from around the route in North Yorkshire.”

He said they would investigate all reports – but would take a “sensible” approach to what could be over-zealous trophy-taking.

The county council is currently considering whether to replace stolen signs and or even install additional ones – bys says it cannot afford to continuously do so.

The executive member for highways, Gareth Dadd, said: “We put up these permanent signs up for the benefit of cyclists, motorists and tourists so they can enjoy the beauty, the variety and the challenge of this route into the future.

"We felt these signs would be a fitting part of the legacy of the great success of the Tour de France in North Yorkshire, a symbol of our pride in the event, and would contribute to the long-term boost to tourism in the area.

"But we cannot afford to keep replacing them as our funds are limited in this period of economic stringency, so we would urge people not to steal the signs so that they can continue to be used and enjoyed by everybody in the years ahead.”