Lorry breakdown chaos 'shows case for HGV ban'

A HEAVY goods vehicle brought traffic to a standstill in Henley after it broke down. The Camfaud crane lorry stopped on the corner of Bell Street and New Street at 8am on Friday and stayed there for more than three hours. Drivers of other vehicles, including many other lorries, were stuck in the resulting traffic jams.

Amanda Chumas, who lives in Bell Street and is campaigning for a 
7.5-tonne weight limit on lorries coming through Henley, says the incident strengthens her case. She is asking Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority, to introduce a traffic regulation order that would prevent HGV drivers using the town as a shortcut. During Friday’s incident, Mrs Chumas took photographs to demonstrate the large number of large commercial vehicles that were coming through Henley and spoke to drivers.

She said: “These photographs demonstrate overwhelmingly that the vast majority of the traffic using the A4130 during the morning peak hour is commercial and most of it is HGVs. “My concern was started by what I see literally every time I open my front door. “I am directly opposite the junction with New Street and I see things like lorries going over the pavement.

Safety is my main concern —  I think it is an accident waiting to happen.” She said she was also concerned about the noise from lorries, espcially during the night when it disturbed residents’ sleep, and the vibrations from vehicles that damaged homes. “In some cases, it does cause cracks and damage,” said Mrs Chumas. “They are mainly timber-framed houses that go back hundreds of years.

The lorries also bring a lot of pollution with them.” She said the nature of the traffic had changed in the 11 years she had lived in Bell Street. “The majority of traffic now is commercial and a strong proportion of that is HGVs,” she said.

“Since lockdown, it has got even worse than normal because word has got around among the trucking community that we are not having our usual festivals and traffic is calm, so they are using it as a cut through from the M4. “We are getting a lot from Didcot that is coming all the way down from the Wallingford bypass to save time. “It might be more convenient for the drivers but they are bringing pollution into Henley, where lots of people live, instead of using strategic roads that are designed to take these vehicles.”

She said she spoke to a number of drivers stuck in Friday’s jam who were very frustrated and admitted they were using Henley as a cut-through. Mrs Chumas added: “This proves the point. There haven’t been mass breakdowns before but it is not uncommon to see HGVs trying to get round the corner and failing to do so.

Because they would rather not mount the pavement, they have to reverse and that brings traffic to a halt.” Mrs Chumas is being supported by town councillor Stefan Gawrysiak, who is also the town’s representative on the county council. He says that to implement the regulation order would cost more than ?100,000, which could be funded by the district and county councils.

It would be enforced by using automatic number plate recognition cameras and a database of legitimate road users. Councillor Gawrysiak is hoping to put forward a motion to the county council but wants to get the support of neighbouring parishes first. He said: “It was unfortunate that the lorry broke down at Bell Street.

“A huge number of HGVs were backed up along Bell Street, Duke Street and Hart Street and trying to come down Fair Mile as well. It just demonstrates how many we get trying to come through Henley. “What we’re trying to do is reduce the ones that just go through.

We’ve always said that any lorry legitimately delivering to Henley is fine but that the through lorries need to be on the main strategic routes. “I am going to invite all the parish councils surrounding Henley to help put forward our case. If we had a weight limit, it would protect not only Henley but also the villages.

Later on, I will put a motion to the county council. “In the local transport plan, it states clearly that there should be weight limits in Burford, Chipping Norton and Henley. Burford has got one, Chipping Norton is getting one and Henley wants it.”

Mrs Chumas is optimistic about her campaign’s chances of success. She said: “I do think we’ve got a good chance. I’ve had exchanges with the county council and they’ve been very constructive.

“Henley has a problem and the council has acknowledged for some time that we have a problem. It stated that Henley is inappropriate to use as a cut-through by HGVs and should be protected by a weight limit. “The council has made the point that it doesn’t have the funding to instigate the traffic regulation order and therefore it is up to Henley to find the funding.”

Mrs Chumas said the support of the parishes was important, adding: “Ideally, I would like to get them on board with the motion as well.” The crane lorry is understood to have broke down due to a damaged clutch. o What do you think?

Write to: Letters, Henley Standard, Caxton House, 1 Station Road, Henley or email
letters@henleystandard.co.uk

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