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My house is cracking
Published 18/02/13

A WOMAN claims her listed home is being split in two by the vibrations from huge lorries driving past on a sub-standard road surface.

Judy Dinsdale, of Northfield End, Henley, says the number of heavy goods vehicles has increased while the surface of the road has deteriorated.

Two large cracks have appeared in the second floor landing of her three-storey house, which is Grade II listed.

Ms Dinsdale, who has lived there for 35 years, has been quoted 2,000 to repair the damage.

She said: “The crack has been getting wider for a few months and now it is serious so I had it looked at. These houses were never built to withstand heavy goods vehicles juddering through. It makes a real thud and shakes the whole house.

“I can see from my bathroom window this huge pothole that the lorries go bumping down into and then bumping back up. I understand lorries using the road for access such as deliveries to Waitrose but where are all the others coming from and going to?”

Ms Dinsdale, who is retired, said the problem was worst at night and particularly early in the morning.

“Lorries can go faster then because there are no cars about,” she said. “They really pick up speed and crash into the pothole. It is the volume of big and heavy vehicles at night-time and the juddering that wakes you up. We do not hear the cars — that has never been a problem.”

Ms Dinsdale said the problem seemed to have become worse recently.

“It has been commented on by all the neighbours,” she said. “Suddenly it seems to be a rat run for HGVs. Why are they now coming here all of a sudden?”

Next-door neighbour Brian MacShane said: “From 5am every day, except Sundays, scores of large lorries take a shortcut through Henley, generally in transit to other locations.

“The state of these roads is appalling and creates a large ‘boom’ as every truck hits the huge irregularities along the road. The ‘boom’ is always accompanied by my house shaking, much like an earthquake tremor.

“In the early hours of the morning the boom and the consequent vibrations ensure that one is woken up. It almost sounds/feels like the road is hollow underneath and connected directly to our houses.

“I have seen the damage caused to Judy’s house and am concerned as our houses are connected. I’m not sure how much longer my 250-year-old house will be able to take this constant violent shaking.”

Joyce Hogge, of Bell Street, said: “Over the last few years the number of lorries has increased considerably.

“Henley is a very good rat run and saves time for people going to Maidenhead or Reading. You get HGVs coming through at night and sometimes you get them rumbling until it seems almost like an earthquake and the house vibrates.

“It wakes me up at around dawn, although once I was woken up at about 3am by several lorries.”

Mrs Hogge has also experienced structural problems at her home.

She said: “I have got cracks that have been repaired and have certainly come back within the last two years. It is not very nice and one worries about the house.”

Ms Dinsdale was given her estimate for repairs by listed building specialist Kevin Dunne, of Dunne & Co, of Chalkhouse Green.

Mr Dunne said: “This is an old property and the problems are due to the way the brick was constructed.

“These medieval buildings in and around Henley do suffer because they are built on shallow foundations.

“I do not think the cracks are caused by the HGVs but they are definitely exacerbated by them. If houses are right on the roadside there are ongoing problems that are not helped by heavy goods vehicles.”

Charles Langler, a member of the Henley in Transition group, said: “We are concerned about the air pollution and you cannot help but be concerned about the other dangers of heavy goods vehicles.

“They are currently allowed to go through Bell Street at 30mph which I think is far too fast.

“We are trying to encourage Oxfordshire County Council to look at a 20mph limit. That would cut down on the vibrations and the noise.”

Councillor Laila Meachin, who chairs the town council’s traffic advisory committee, said: “HGVs pose a long-standing problem in Henley — they damage the town and its residents.

“Most people would like to see something done about those that use Henley as a through route. Henley was detrunked in the early Nineties and no HGV needs to use Henley in this way.

“Oxfordshire County Council is responsible for highways and South Oxfordshire District Council for air quality. Neither seems to be able to do anything to alleviate the problem.

“All Henley Town Council can do is to lobby them. HGVs account for three per cent of total traffic flow but 20 per cent of total emissions. It is obvious that even a small change in HGV usage would impact positively on Henley.

“The traffic advisory committee and other organisations such as Henley in Transition are actively pursuing ways of addressing the problem.

“Unfortunately, there is no quick and easy solution. However, the more local support we can gain through petitions and evidence of problems, the better position we’ll be in to argue our case.”

Town and county councillor David Nimmo Smith said: “The increasing number of HGVs coming through Henley has been an issue for some time.

“They service local businesses but long-distance HGVs should not be coming through Henley, even if their sat-navs direct them this way — they should be using the A34, M4, M40 and A404. However, they pay their road tax and are legally allowed to travel on public roads.

“I am aware that vehicles going through potholes — and sometimes even just driving past — can cause vibration. When I see a pothole in Henley, or one is reported to me, I report it to the county council.

“What concerns me greatly is that some are where previous repairs have failed, which shows that money is being wasted. This is something which I regularly quiz the officers and cabinet about. We pay our taxes and expect long-term results, not a short-term fix which fails.”

Rhys Williams, of the Oxfordshire branch of the Road Hauliers Association, said: “A HGV driver would not willingly take a route through somewhere unless he has to go there.

“The local authorities should be making other arrangements if the vehicles are causing structural damage.

“We need routes that are HGV-friendly and the only way a cut-through can be prevented is by implementing restrictions.

“Henley is not the sort of place that you want to be driving a 44-tonne truck through if you do not have to.”

Published 18/02/13

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