Finally, HGV ‘rat run’ road made safer for residents

A SECTION of a busy road in Watlington has had traffic-calming measures installed to discourage drivers from using it as a "rat run". Residents say that for years the single track stretch of Pyrton Road near St Leonard's Church has been used by drivers, including those in heavy goods vehicles, as a short cut to the M40. The work, which was carried out this week by a contractor for Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority, included the installation of two full-width flat top road humps, a single speed cushion and 11 bollards.

These are designed to stop drivers speeding and improve the safety of pedestrians as well as prevent vehicles mounting the verges, causing damage. A 20mph zone will also be put in place and there will be a new pedestrian crossing with disabled access. Ian Hill, vice-chairman of Watlington Parish Council, said: "The hope is that this will force people to use it more as a single-track road.

"This has been in the works for about six years as residents have had concerns for a while. "A disabled man used to have to use it to get into town and he was concerned how fast cars came down here." He said the 20mph speed limit would be in place ahead of the rest of the town where the lower limit is due to be introduced later this year.

Councillor Hill said: "It will just make life a lot more pleasant in Watlington and give it a lovely centre. It is unsuitable at the moment because of all the traffic." Jonathan Moses, who lives Pyrton Lane, said: "I'm just hoping that with the new-builds in Chalgrove, this will prepare our road a lot more for the traffic increase."

Contractor Mike Titchmarsh said: "This point of the road is a real pinch point. A lot of HGVs drivers try to get past each other as there aren't any bollards. "This work should discourage its use by some of the larger vehicles."

Freddie Van Mierlo, who represents Watlington on the county council, said: "This was one of my priorities in my election campaign last year as I knocked on so many doors where people raised it as an issue. "We had a public consultation, which returned incredibly positive results, and we have now finally started work. To be able to get this done in a year is brilliant.

This is why I became a councillor -- to improve people's lives. We have really taken into account the views of residents in this whole effort." Cllr Van Mierlo said that a public consultation on a Watlington ring road would take place later this year following by a planning application in the spring.

If all goes to plan, the bypass could be completed by the end of 2024. "Exciting things are happening in Watlington," he said. "The ring road will lead to less traffic in the town, which will make Couching Street and High Street far more appealing. "We have great businesses in Watlington, like the Orange Bakery and Calnan Brothers Butchers, and the hope is that we can get more of a cafe culture going.

"A lot of people come to Watlington but we want them to stay."