10:30 Tuesday 1st February 2011
Andy Harper Show BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.
ANDY HARPER: We’ve been talking about HGVs and large farm vehicles driving through our villages this morning. This was sparked by the tractor crashing into a home in Wilburton yesterday. Residents in the village were not surprised. (TAPE)
RESIDENT: There’ve been times when I walked past my next-door neighbour’s house, and if I’d just stick my elbow out and a lorry had gone by, I’d have had my arm ripped off, because the pavement is no more than about 2ft wide at that point. (LIVE)
ANDY HARPER: Well there has been work going on behind the scenes to try to bring relief to some villages in the County. Owen McLaughlin from Earith is Secretary of the Heavy Commercial Vehicle Forum, which represents nine villages affected by heavy lorry use. Owen, good morning to you.
OWEN MCLAUGHLIN: Good morning.
ANDY HARPER: So tell us about the Forum.
OWEN MCLAUGHLIN: The Forum, as you say, is a number of villages who’ve come together to adopt a collective approach to a problem that they all basically suffer from, which is HGV traffic using inappropriate routes through Fen villages.
ANDY HARPER: And what do you do?
OWEN MCLAUGHLIN: Well, we have regular meetings, and we co-ordinate. We have a joint approach to tackling these problems, because we feel that the authorities often adopt a divide and rule approach when dealing with the villages in terms of traffic issues.
ANDY HARPER: So they go to one village and say, no you can’t have a 30mph limit because for such and such reason, and then they pick them off one by one? So you feel that uniting together gives you more clout?
OWEN MCLAUGHLIN: Precisely.
ANDY HARPER: And what success have you had?
OWEN MCLAUGHLIN: Well we feel we’ve had a degree of success. We’ve certainly lobbied very hard for the County to look again at its freight transport map of the County. And the A1123 has now been downgraded from a strategic to a local route. So we think that is partly due to our efforts.
ANDY HARPER: So the 1123, which is what we’ve been talking about this morning, is the one you’re concentrating on. Do you actually live in Earith?
OWEN MCLAUGHLIN: I do. On the High Street, yes.
ANDY HARPER: And there’s a problem there?
OWEN MCLAUGHLIN: There’s a severe problem in Earith, very similar to Wilburton. A very narrow road, buildings right up to the road edge, and it makes it very dangerous to walk along the road. And there’s a lot of environmental disturbance. Can I just add, something else we’re currently doing is we’re arranging environmental testing in five villages, including Earith and Wilburton, which is going to monitor HGV traffic for noise, vibrartion and pollutants. And this will give us evidence in our dealings with the authorities.
ANDY HARPER: Because that was the point I made to Stephen, our caller from Wilburton earlier on today, that alright, accidents like yesterday are thankfully fairly rare, but damage must be being done to these old properties that are on the side of the road on a daily basis.
OWEN MCLAUGHLIN: Absolutely. Yes. The vibrartion is severe. We get water splashed on the houses, which erodes the brickwork. Road surfaces are very badly damaged, as are bridges and verges.
ANDY HARPER: What do you want to happen ultimately? In the Utopian world which we will never achieve, what would you want? A speed limit, or a by-pass for all these villages?
OWEN MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I think by-pass is the ultimate objective, but being realistic, there are other things that can be done to mitigate the problem in the short-term. And they include speed limits, and they include traffic restraining orders, so that heavy traffic is forbidden to use certain routes, perhaps at certain times.
ANDY HARPER: When you go to the authorities, with the problems and indeed suggestions and possible remedies, what sort of response do you get?
OWEN MCLAUGHLIN: The usual response is we haven’t got any money.
ANDY HARPER: Yes. Yes. I suppose that’s it. But then somebody said, how much does it cost to put up a sign or two.
OWEN MCLAUGHLIN:Well exactly. And our approach is, with the environmental testing for example, it’s to show what damage is being done, not just to the physical infrastructure, but to people’s lives. There are people who can’t sleep, because they’re being woken up. People who are in fear for their children’s lives, even going to the village shop. How do you cost these things?
ANDY HARPER: Indeed. Because there’s the point we were making earlier, that we want children to go outside, and play outside, be outside more, but most parents are too frightened to let them out, even in rural areas.
OWEN MCLAUGHLIN: Exactly.
ANDY HARPER: Well it’s been good to talk to you Owen. Keep us in touch, and if any further developments happen, we’d like to hear from you.
OWEN MCLAUGHLIN: Certainly.
ANDY HARPER: Thank you very much. Cheers. That’s Owen McLaughlin, from Earith, who is Secretary of the Heavy Commercial Vehicle Forum, a group of communities trying to do something about it.