Friday, 20 July 2018

Banning ‘rat run’ HGVs is not solution

OXFORDSHIRE County Council says it must “up its game” in its efforts to improve air quality

OXFORDSHIRE County Council says it must “up its game” in its efforts to improve air quality in Henley, writes James Burton.

Bev Hindle, deputy director of environment and economy, made the admission at a meeting of Henley Town Council’s transport strategy group last week.

Campaigners have been trying for years to persuade the county council, as the highways authority, to stop the town being used as a rat run by heavy goods vehicles.

But Mr Hindle said a ban would not be feasible. He said: “We want to up our game with regard to air quality and are focusing on freight traffic in three particular areas, of which Henley is one.

“There are not many resources available but with HGVs and air quality it isn’t just about the money, it’s about the unintended negative consequences that certain measures could have.

“The displacement of HGVs from Henley could put more pressure on other communities so [a ban] is not going to be a satisfactory answer. There is no simple solution as Henley can’t take a bypass or other new infrastructure. We don’t have a magic wand but want to look at ways of working with you to find solutions.”

Dave McEwen, who represents Henley in Transition on the group, said the county council advised distribution companies to stick to the national networks but drivers still cut through towns like Henley because they believed it to be a shortcut.

He said if a limit on non-local HGVs was introduced, enforcement could be done by residents using cameras and writing to haulage firms. This had worked well in Watlington, he said.

Mr Hindle replied that he understood people in Watlington didn’t think this was working and it didn’t deal with the problem of HGVs making legitimate local trips.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily the answer,” he said. “You can call the distribution centres and they’ll say it won’t happen again but that doesn’t filter down to the drivers. If they think they can shave 10 minutes off the journey they’ll take it.

“The net benefit of an HGV ban for Henley might be good but the impact on the wider area, which is what I have to take into account, might not be.”

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