Henley’s County Councillor, Stefan Gawrysiak has asked for the decision to revoke Burford’s weight limit to be looked at by Oxfordshire County Council’s Scrutiny Committee as he believes there were flaws in the report presented by Councillor Duncan Enright (Cabinet Member for Travel and Development Strategy) and that he had a vested interest in this as he represents Witney and surrounding villages near to Burford.
At a meeting on 2 February, Councillor Gawrysiak will ask the Scrutiny Committee to put the Burford decision on hold and refer the decision to the Council’s Cabinet.
The decision to revoke Burford’s ETRO (Experimental Traffic Restriction Order) which has been in place for 18 months could have implications on whether Henley would be able to implement one to stop HGVs cutting through the town. The flaws in the report Councillor Gawrysiak believes is that “there was a whole lot of ANPR data that was not included in the decision or the officer’s report.” Stefan said, “How can you make a decision when all the data hasn’t been considered?”
At the Town Council’s, Transport Strategy Meeting on Tuesday, Councillor Gawrysiak said, “Last April, there was a resolution passed at county which actually said that council officers should do all the necessary studies that are required for a traffic regulation order for a weight limit in Henley to come into force. Since April, we have had two or three meetings with officers and it looked as though it was progressing very well. In November it was agreed that the next step was to create a map around Henley and identify locations for automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras so that we could get an idea of the number and type of HGVs coming into Henley.”
Councillor Gawrysiak was promised the map and APNR locations for the meeting this week after already postponing a meeting in December because this information wasn’t received. Before the meeting he said he received an email from OCC saying, “Unfortunately I am unable to get any work to you by close of play today. New cogs have started moving, i.e. Councillor Enright’s (Cabinet Member for Travel and Development Strategy) decision to revoke the ETRO in Burford paired with motion to create an area wide freight strategy map for Oxfordshire. Internal discussions are taking place. Due to these discussions taking place, I will not be able to provide a coherent report for considering a weight limit for Henley-on-Thames. Sincerely apologies for this abrupt delay.”
At the Scrutiny Meeting, Councillor Gawrysiak will be speaking. He said, “What I am trying to do is get that decision overturned so the weight limit for Burford stands. I will be as forceful as I possibly can. The second part is this wider freight strategy. The council has announced that it wants to look at the county as a whole (holistically) and won’t make any decisions on individual towns until that has happened. As you can imagine, I have written to Councillor Duncan Enright and officers saying that Henley has a resolution that says do everything you can to carry out the studies. Why are we stopping the ANPR data study, which is the next step, you will need this for freight strategy for the county wide study and you’ll have to do this for every town in the county.
He has asked why has Henley been put on hold? When is the freight strategy going to start and end and what is its scope? Will the new strategy take into air quality, pedestrian safety, vibration of historical buildings and quality of life issues?
Amanda Chumas who is part of the Henley campaign to get a weight limit for Henley at the meeting said: “A, we’re not going to be able to proceed with the weight limit studies and B, it seems that even if we need a weight limit we can’t have one unless there is a suitable, comparable route.
“The bottom line is HGVs come to Henley purely to cross the river because it is a quick connection between junctions 8 and 9 [of the M40] up to Didcot. Our problems have been exacerbated by the construction of the distribution centres at Didcot and, to a lesser extent, Wallingford.
“We can’t cope with 44-tonners all over our pavements, it is as simple as that and the Department for Transport is on the point of considering authorising 48-tonners, which will be 2m longer and four tonnes heavier. Some sense has to prevail.
“The campaign has been collating pictures from members of the public and sending them on so they can see with their own eyes photographic evidence of these things on the pavements.
“It is totally wrong that the county council should be able to turn a blind eye and say, ‘They have got to go through Henley because it happens to suit us in terms of dealing with the volumes of traffic’.
“Our danger is if we don’t mobilise public opinion and if we don’t let the county council actually know, individuals in Henley, people who care about Henley, not only is Henley not going to get a weight limit, it is also going to find it becomes an authorised HGV route.”
Tony Fox, another member of the Henley campaign spoke about the latest consultation by OCC. He told the meeting that he spent an entire afternoon completing the survey which he said was just a “justification exercise” and questioned how many people would actually complete it. Councillor Gawrysiak said that he would work with the Town Council’s Transport Strategy Officer, Fiona Hewer to come up with a template/guide for residents to use to easily complete the survey.
David Dickie, who has campaigned for Cleaner Air for Henley asked when New Street was going to be resurfaced and could bollards be installed on the corner by Savills and Asquiths at the same time to give protection to pedestrians. Stefan confirmed that the work was due to be completed within the next year and that there was a plan for bollards.
Another Town Council Transport Strategy Meeting will be scheduled for 3 weeks time when Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak would give an update on the response from OCC and outcome of the meetings.