Monday, 29 November 2021

Road repairs boss denies expanding his lorry fleet

Road repairs boss denies expanding his lorry fleet

THE owner of a company which resurfaces roads has denied claims that he is expanding his fleet.

Richard Hazell, who founded Hazell & Jefferies in 1971, has sparked a wave of complaints after seeking permission for an additional 20 heavy goods vehicles and four trailers at his depot off Pot Kiln Lane, near Woodcote.

He currently has a licence for 13 lorries and four trailers at the site.

Mr Hazell has also asked the Traffic Commissioner for permission for another 15 lorries on a yard he owns off Penny Royal, Goring Heath, which isn’t currently authorised for storage.

At the moment he is licensed for 45 lorries and five trailers across four locations, including his head office at Mount Pleasant Farm in Whitchurch Hill, a second depot at Upper Gatehampton Farm in Goring and a skip hire plant and recycling centre at Ewelme.

These numbers would increase to 80 lorries and eight trailers if he is granted his request to vary his licence, which comes up for renewal in February.

Dozens of Woodcote and Goring Heath residents have written to their parish, district and county councillors, claiming this would put unbearable pressure on the roads, increasing the risk of an accident and make the problems of noise, traffic and air pollution worse.

The commissioner, who regulates commercial vehicle operators, will consider feedback from South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, and Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority, as “statutory” consultees.

However, he will not consider formal objections from parish councils or individuals, only “representations” from those living near the site.

Mr Hazell, who holds a resurfacing contract with the county council, says there will be no increase in reality because he has been operating about 80 vehicles for some time and this has only increased a little over more than a decade.

He claims this is not unlawful because of the “grey area” over how some of his vehicles, mostly tankers carrying tarmac, are classed.

Years ago, these were licensed separately as road construction vehicles but the commissioner said recently that they were now more likely to be viewed as HGVs.

He says trade bodies advised him that he didn’t have to apply for permission but he wanted to avoid legal problems.

He said some of his “additional” vehicles had been in his fleet for up to 20 years, although they would soon be replaced by more environmentally friendly models.

Mr Hazell, 78, said: “I can promise, categorically, that we’re not going to run a single extra lorry and everything we’ve got will stay where it has always been kept.

“It’s just that some vehicles now have to go on an operator’s licence because we can’t run them on the licence we used to have.

“Many of the tar tankers will only be used between April and September, then kept in storage over the winter. The complaints have caused a real headache when I’m just trying to run a business that provides a vital service and employs about 100 people locally.

“I bet many of the people who are complaining are the first to complain about the state of the roads when we’re the ones who go out and fix them. We’ve recently done the A4074 and part of Whitchurch high street, for example.

“We’re always replacing our fleet to keep up with emissions standards and I’m sure some people notice the new vehicles but we’re scrapping old ones at a similar rate.

“We kept going throughout much of the coronavirus pandemic but we did lose money and local authorities should be doing all they can to support small businesses like ours.”

Opponents say the commissioner should review the Woodcote depot because it causes disruption.

Councillor Jo Robb, who represents Woodcote and Rotherfield ward on the district council, says people living near Pot Kiln Lane are kept awake by lorries coming and going at unsociable hours, which the current licence permits although planning conditions restrict movements to between 7am and 7pm.

Cllr Robb said: “Mr Hazell’s application suggests he has been operating outside the regulatory framework and this provides an opportunity to step back and assess what’s appropriate in the first place. Some might argue that what’s already in place is not acceptable and there are concerns that he wouldn’t adhere to the requirements of any new licence.

“The Penny Royal site is hardly ideal but Pot Kiln Lane is in a residential area and having lorries coming and going at all hours has a hugely negative effect on people’s lives. I will be calling for an objection on several grounds and I would urge Hazell & Jefferies to be considerate and withdraw this.”

Malcolm Smith, deputy chairman of Woodcote Parish Council, said: “The depot is on a country lane which isn’t suitable for the kind of traffic that it generates and we certainly wouldn’t want it to get any worse. The level is too heavy already and people have complained in the past.

“Our clerk recently saw a lorry with a trailer and heavy machinery which must have weighed about 30 tonnes and the lane just isn’t built to take that kind of load.

“It wasn’t built with an operation of that scale in mind and can cause problems for any other vehicles which are around.”

Kevin Bulmer, who represents Goring division on the county council, said: “I’ve strongly encouraged our officers to take a thorough approach with this one and assess the environmental impact because we are trying to make our streets and the environment better for the people who live here.

“The initial response was that we couldn’t do much because there’s an existing permission but I spoke to the cabinet member for highways who was very supportive of my efforts to ensure this is done properly and not just waved through without proper scrutiny.”

The traffic commissioner’s office said it had received a number of letters from residents and that a public inquiry could be held if either the county or district councils objected.

None of the residents who complained wished to comment to the Henley Standard.

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