Sunday, 31 May 2020
THE number of heavy good vehicles in Henley during both rush hours has soared in less than four years.
A traffic study conducted late last year shows that lorry movements more than doubled in the morning peak period and increased by 50 per cent in the evenings.
At the same time, the overall volume of traffic has decreased, meaning that HGVs make up a large proportion.
The study by consultants Peter Brett Associates, of Reading, was commissioned by Henley Town Council to assess the impact that new homes will have on the roads.
It compared HGV and traffic flows between a study carried out by the company in May 2015 with volumes at 22 locations around the town in December.
The study showed a 111.5 per cent increase in two-way HGV movements from 8am to 9am and a 50.1 per cent increase between 5pm and 6pm.
There was an increase in HGV movements in both directions at 19 of the 22 locations with the worst area being Reading Road. Other hot spots included White Hill, by Henley Bridge, Bell Street, Fair Mile and Marlow Road. In the evening period, an increase was recorded at 16 of the locations.
Stefan Gawrysiak, who chairs the council’s transport working group, called the report’s findings “disturbing”.
He blamed lorry drivers using the town as a “rat run” to and from the M40 and M4 and said that introducing a 7.5-tonne weight limit in Henley would help.
Councillor Gawrysiak said: “HGV traffic has increased significantly. In the old study HGVs were three per cent of the overall traffic but were responsible for 30 per cent of the pollution, particularly the particulates.
“One would expect HGV movements to be similar over the last three years so I was absolutely shocked that they increased.
“We know there’s a canyon effect in Henley with narrow streets and tall buildings which trap the air pollution so we have got to come out with steps to tackle this problem. It would be remiss of us not to.” The council is pushing South Oxfordshire District Council to carry out a pilot study to measure the level of harmful particulates in the air.
This follows years of pressure by environmental campaigners who say the town has a serious air quality problem and blame the particulates from vehicle exhaust emissions.
The district council, which is responsible for air quality management, has always insisted that there isn’t a problem with particulates but might agree to a study as early as the summer.
Cllr Gawrysiak, who is also a district councillor, said he had obtained an estimate from Ricardo, the council’s preferred air quality experts, for monitoring equipment and now needed a meeting to discuss the best location for it.
He said the data from the study would be used to support the case for a weight restriction.
The transport working group has also asked the district council for more than £43,000 for other measures to improve air quality with the town council contributing another £110,000.
The money would go towards schemes including new cycle routes, signs, planters to “green” the town centre, more charging points for electric vehicles and a car club.
Cllr Gawrysiak said: “I am confident that we will be moving to solve this problem. The main aim is to improve people’s quality of life and health.”
Dave McEwen, chairman of environmental pressure group Henley in Transition, said the new study was “very worrying” and emphasised the need for urgent action.
He said: “It is a surprise because I thought with greater use of sat-navs and that sort of thing that lorries would be using the more arterial routes.
“The idea of a weight limit for HGV through-traffic is on the table, as I understand it, with Oxfordshire County Council but they need to get on with it. We have got this really serious pollution problem and that must be exacerbated by HGVs and all the building going on, which is going to mean more traffic in the town centre.
“We need to be looking at a clean air zone which would give the council control over the situation.”
The Peter Brett study also revealed that during both rush hours there was a reduction in the overall volume of traffic at almost all the 22 locations.
In the morning, there was a six per cent reduction.
However, on White Hill there was 48 per cent increase in traffic going westbound and in St Mark’s Road the increase was 267 per cent. Deanfield Avenue showed a 52 per cent decrease in the volume of traffic going south.
In the evening, there was a fall of 10 per cent in overall traffic volumes with King’s Road and St Mark’s Road showing reductions in both directions of 38 per cent and 73 per cent respectively.
The report concludes: “The results indicate that in both the AM and PM peak hours, there is a general level of reduction in the volume of total traffic volume across the study area between 2015 and 2018.
“The analysis showed that there is a negative level of growth (-10 per cent) in the study area.
“The level of HGV traffic across Henley has generally increased in the AM and PM peak hours between the surveyed dates, more significantly in the AM peak hour. Further review may be required to assess the nature of the increases and the impact on the flow of traffic in Henley.”
The 2015 study, which cost the council £50,000, found that about 120 more cars would go through Henley at peak hours if 450 new homes were built. This would have been a 12 per cent increase on the volume at that time.
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