Saturday, 17 March 2018

Bid to stop HGVs driving through town

BUSINESS owners in Watlington have backed a campaign to stop heavy goods vehicles driving through the town.

BUSINESS owners in Watlington have backed a campaign to stop heavy goods vehicles driving through the town.

It follows the launch of pressure group Watlington Against Pollution and HGVs, which is concerned about the number and size of lorries using the town centre despite a 7.5-tonne weight limit being in place.

Actor Jeremy Irons, who has a home in the town, has agreed to be the group’s patron.

A number of traders have complained that lorries have damaged their premises.

James Gerring, who owns Hair by James in Shirburn Street, had to spend about £2,500 replacing the canopy outside his salon after it was knocked down by lorries three times.

He has now fitted a smaller canopy which just covers the doorway and is less likely to be hit.

The sign outside the premises also needs replacing after being hit by an HGV recently.

Mr Gerring said: “It’s ridiculous. You can’t claim on your insurance because your premiums go up so much. It is very annoying and frustrating.

“One of the main problems is that the lorries go up on the pavement and are nearly in my front door. The problem has got worse as the lorries are now much more frequent.” Peppermint Lime, also in Shirburn Street, had to be partially rebuilt after it was knocked by a lorry several years ago.

Company director Natalie Fraser said she was concerned about the same thing happening again.

“It is always quite tight when lorries are going around the corner,” she said. “We also experience quite a lot of noise. I definitely support the campaign as it would be good if we could do something about this problem.”

Louise Nisbet, owner of Wild Thyme in High Street, said the number of HGVs was much higher than when she opened the shop eight years ago.

“There are sometimes a good 100 a day, which is bonkers,” she said. “It is a very big inconvenience but also a worry. They are enormous and the problem is almost constant. I think it has a knock-on effect on trade as it becomes tiresome to come to Watlington because of the traffic and lack of parking.”

Mrs Nisbet welcomed the campaign, saying: “There is a sign at the motorway about the 7.5-tonne limit yet I rarely see that enforced.

“I know that the police are stretched but there must be some way of stopping the lorry drivers — maybe a chicane in the road between the motorway and Watlington so that they can’t get into the town. People are getting frustrated and that is when accidents happen.”

Richard Thomas, who owns Watlington Pharmacy in Couching Street, supports a ban on HGVs in principle but is doubtful that it could be enforced. He said: “If we could find somewhere else to put them it would be wonderful because they completely block off the main street and sometimes it goes dark when a big HGV stops outside but the issue, of course, would be where else they could go.”

Mr Thomas said the bollards outside his shop had been knocked down several times.

Simon Jones, chairman of Watlington Business Association and director of auctioneers Jones & Jacob, said: “We would would like no lorries at all going through the town centre because they are a liability and can be dangerous but at the same time we don’t want to lose the passing trade as people pop into the shops to buy a paper or a tea.”

Keith Lovelace, chairman of the pressure group, said: “We have come a long way in a short time and now we have got this momentum we have to go back to the official channels and say this is the feedback from our group and the public.”

He said the group’s Facebook page had received rude comments, presumably from lorry drivers.

“There has been a barrage of abuse,” he said. “Every swear word under the sun has been used and that has, unfortunately, put off a lot of people from joining us.”

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