Wednesday, 18 July 2018

After having two cars written off, councillor demands safer street

A HENLEY man whose car has been wrecked twice by speeding drivers is campaigning for traffic-calming

A HENLEY man whose car has been wrecked twice by speeding drivers is campaigning for traffic-calming measures on his street.

Dylan Thomas says many motorists ignore the 30mph limit in Northfield End as they enter or leave the town via Fair Mile and fears someone could be killed or seriously injured.

Twice in the past eight months, the Conservative town councillor has had a car written off after being hit while it was parked outside his house overnight.

The last time was on March 13, when a man driving into Henley lost control of his BMW 5 and ploughed into Cllr Thomas’s second-hand Saab 9-3. The damage was so severe that his insurers wrote it off and he will have to claim the money back from the driver.

In June, a driver heading out of Henley drifted across the oncoming lane and ploughed into a parked Audi Q5 belonging to Cllr Thomas.

Now the former Army officer has launched a petition urging Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority, to take steps to make drivers slow down.

His suggestions include building pedestrian crossings or traffic islands with pedestrian refuges and extending the 30mph limit further towards Fair Mile.

Cllr Thomas says this could be funded by introducing a residents’ parking permit zone in Northfield End, which would also make it easier for people to park outside their homes.

Dozens of people have already signed his petition, including fellow councillors David Eggleton, Will Hamilton, Simon Smith, Sarah Abey, Sarah Miller, Martin Akehurst, Kellie Hinton, Stefan Gawrysiak and Ian Reissmann.

Cllr Thomas intends to visit every house on his street to raise support.

Speaking at a meeting of the town council’s traffic advisory group, he said: “I don’t know whether to consider myself the luckiest or the unluckiest person in Henley after what’s happened.

“On the first occasion the car almost crashed through my living room and the second time it caused the loudest bang I’ve heard since I was in Afghanistan.

“If it had been a weekday, we could be talking about fatalities because a lot of people walk along that stretch, especially Rupert House School pupils going to their sports field.

“We’ve been arguing for action for many years and now we’ve got two very strong cases to back it up. I’ve started this petition because several neighbours have been asking what I, as their elected representative, am going to do about it.

“There is also a recognition that Freeman’s Meadow is under-used and a pedestrian crossing would make parents feel safer about taking their children there.” Councillor David Nimmo Smith, who chairs the advsiory group and is the cabinet member responsible for roads on the county council, said a permit scheme would only break even and that Northfield End residents had opposed its introduction in both 1994 and 2004.

Deputy Mayor Julian Brookes said police should carry out more speed checks.

Keith Stenning, a county council highways officer, said there had been only three accidents resulting in injury in Northfield End in the past five years and under Government guidelines this wasn’t enough to justify new safety measures. These accidents hadn’t arisen from speeding but pedestrians stepping into the road suddenly.

Mr Stenning agreed to conduct a speed survey as one hadn’t been done since 2010.

He said: “Before we look at solutions, we need to establish whether there’s a problem. We don’t sit back waiting for people to be killed and I resent the suggestion that we do.”

Cllr Thomas replied: “I don’t think the people of Henley are prepared to wait for a child fatality before anything is done. This policy is morally bankrupt and needs to change.”

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