Monday, 18 December 2017

Fears that road ‘clearways’ would encourage more HGVs

CONCERN has been raised about establishing “freight clearways” through Watlington in an effort to

CONCERN has been raised about establishing “freight clearways” through Watlington in an effort to improve air quality.

The idea was put forward by South Oxfordshire District Council in its new low emissions strategy.

But local councillors claim it could actually encourage more heavy goods vehicles to use the town as a short cut.

The document, which was drawn up by environmental consultants Ricardo Energy, outlines ways to reduce levels of nitrogen dioxide and fine particulates such as soot, which are the most harmful substances produced by petrol and diesel vehicles.

It recommends removing on-street parking in Couching Street and Shirburn Street to create the clearways so goods vehicles and cars don’t end up queuing.



The report says: “This would ease the flow of vehicles, helping to reduce emissions from queuing traffic.

“This approach has also been identified as a potential solution by a recent traffic study of the village, undertaken to support the development of the neighbourhood plan.

“We will look at different options as to how on-street parking could be restricted. If we pursue this action, we will consult on the options  separately.”

The report also suggests better enforcement of the town’s 7.5-tonne weight limit.

It says: “Freight emissions, from both vans and heavy goods vehicles, are a significant element of the transport emissions across the district and within all of the air quality management areas, especially Watlington.

“Our focus is to work with the freight industry to try to manage freight movement more effectively to reduce its impact.

“There is a particular issue in terms of freight movement and air quality in Watlington. This is caused by freight using this village as a route to the M40 and is exacerbated by infringement of the 7.5-tonne weight limit.

“The most likely route for securing a bypass is from developer contributions as a result of extensive housing being built in the area.” The report also recommends clearer signage and says these measures together would help reduce NO2 levels by more than 35 per cent, 10 per cent below the target limit.

Anna Badcock, Watlington’s representative on the district council, said the clearways could encourage HGVs to come through the town after years of campaigning by residents to stop drivers using the town as a “rat-run” to and from the M40.

But she supported stricter enforcement of the weight restriction and said residents were willing to fund the automatic number plate recognition cameras needed.

Watlington parish councillor Tony Williamson said part of the purpose of having parking along Couching Street and Shirburn Street was to make the road safer by slowing the traffic down as well as discouraging drivers from using the route. “If, in fact, you make it a clearway surely that’s going to increase the volume of traffic enormously,” he said.

Cllr Williamson criticised the suggestion that Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority, could control HGVs travelling through the town.

He said; “The problem is that the county have reduced the amount of staff they have got and can do very little about enforcing the HGV restrictions. We need to find out how suggestions put forward in the report could be carried out by the highways authority.”

Residents who want to read and comment on the proposals should visit www.southoxon.gov.uk/lowemissions

The consultation ends on March 25.

Meanwhile, Watlington Parish Council is to ask a distribution company to ensure its HGVs are directed away from the town centre.

H & H Distribution, which is based at Watlington industrial estate, off Cuxham Road, is due to apply for its storage and distribution consent to be renewed.

The district council would be entitled to refuse consent in light of the air quality management area covering the town centre. 

The parish council wants to meet company bosses to discuss the enforcement of the authorised route for its vehicles which directs them away from the town centre.



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