Campaigners trying to restrict large HGVs using Henley as a short-cut are angry that Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) are now proposing a new county-wide zonal highways plan with recommended suitable routes for HGVs and no town weight-restrictions.
Until the end of December 2021, the campaigners were hopeful that a Henley traffic study which OCC had agreed to in principle, would go ahead and would formally demonstrate to OCC Henley’s need for an environmental weight limit in order to prevent heavy through traffic. The former OCC LTCP (Local Transport and Connectivity Plan) expressly recognised that Henley was unsuitable for large HGVs.
As part of a new LTCP, OCC now proposes to assess the impact of heavy traffic throughout the county and “recommend suitable routes for HGVs”. However, OCC have not made it clear whether these routes would be purely advisory or mandatory. Amanda Chumas from Henley HGV Weight Limit Campaign said, “We know from past experience that the maps which have been supplied by OCC to the haulage industry indicating that they should not use Henley as cut-through and that voluntary agreements with the haulage industry are just broken or ignored.”
“As part of the promotion of LTCP, OCC said that it would stop all applications for specific weight limits and instead would consider zonal/area weight restrictions of 18 tonnes. This has swept away any prospect of OCC Highways Dept applying for an environmental weight limit for Henley.”
Consultations on LTCP and its subsidiary accompanying paper entitled “Draft Freight and Logistics Strategy“, was launched in January 2022 by OCC and the Henley HGV campaign responded to this. They have also been collating a library of photographs showing the problems that large HGVs encounter as they negotiate their way through Henley’s narrow and winding busy roads. The new bollard installed on the corner of New Street in August (outside Savills) has had little effect on HGVs mounting the kerb and the an area of the pavement has already become loose had to be repaired (see photo below).
OCC highways are appointing independent consultants to report back to OCC with their recommendations as to what should be done. Joe Kay, Strategic Lead at OCC for piloting the new LTCP, has acknowledged receipt of the photographic body of evidence that the Campaign has been uploading and has promised that this will be put before the consultants. Mr Kay hopes to receive a report back from the consultants in December.
Amanda added, “However, disturbingly, at the moment, it would appear that we are being denied access to the consultants, notwithstanding that they will be consulting with other stakeholders, including the haulage industry. We believe that this is both grossly unfair and contrary to the rules of natural justice.”
“Clearly, the haulage industry, which uses Henley as a short cut purely because of our bridge to save mileage between the M4 and the A34 by using the A4130 (instead of continuing on the M4 down to junction 13 and up the A34 and vice versa) will be very keen to preserve their existing freedom to come through out town.”
“Indeed, increasing fuel costs have made long-distance hauliers all the keener. However, the sheer size of the large, long-distance HGVs which wend their way through our town, relative to our fragile infrastructure, makes this totally inappropriate and dangerous.”
“We have asked Mr Kay to reassure us that there is no intention that the A4130 is to become a “recommended” HGV route. His response has been that he cannot predict what the independent consultants may recommend in their report.”
Consequently, the Campaign is really very concerned that, unless the voice of Henley is heard loud and clear, the consultants may recommend this outcome. If so, not only will Henley not get protection from HGVs by the introduction of an environmental weight limit but, instead, the number of large HGVs coming through the town would increase dramatically.
Therefore, the campaign are asking residents for support to send photographs whenever you can snap them with your smart cameras. Please add details of the Location/Street, time and date. Please send to firstname.lastname@example.org or you can now send or tag photos or videos to @henleyhgvs on Instagram