MCC won't u-turn over country lane sign decision

Wednesday 20th April 2016 3:13 pm
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Residents of rural communities are becoming increasingly frustrated at HGV drivers seeking shortcuts through the lanes - probably on the ‘instructions’ of a sat nav and occasionally with disastrous consequences.

Not being familiar with the geography of the area, the drivers soon get into difficulties as the roads narrow and struggle to reverse back or find a turning place.

Gwehelog Fawr community councillors supported by County Councillor Val Smith have been lobbying Monmouthshire County Council for the past two years to provide appropriate warning signs but have recently received another knock back.

In February an overturned HGV completely blocked a lane in Trostrey for several days, after causing considerable damage to grass verges and stock fencing along the way.

The incident had to be dealt with by the fire service and police.

The driver, it seems, was attempting to transport a load of timber to Llancayo by taking a turning off the Usk - Raglan road and venturing cross-country to Bettws Newydd.

The lane has a sign at the Bettws Newydd end notifying drivers that it is unsuitable for lorries, but not at the small crossroads at the Trostrey end. The community council has been informed that this second sign has now been agreed by MCC and will be programmed into the budget for the 2016/17 financial year.

But the community council think an additional sign is also needed at the turning off the main road, leading to the crossroads.

They’ve already tried - and failed - to persuade MCC to erect a warning sign about a mile away at the turning off the main road at Gwehelog village hall, after several lorries got into difficulties on the narrow lanes there.

The response from MCC’s area engineer was ‘Not agreed…’

According to his report, “This lane is typical of the numerous lanes in this area and there is no evidence of excessive or large numbers of errant HGVs and a sign of this nature is not supported or justifiable in this location.

“Professional HGV drivers can reasonably be expected to stay on the main road here and use their professional judgement when considering which road is appropriate for their type of vehicle and drivers can buy and use sat navs specifically designed for HGVs which can be set to various settings not just follow the shortest route setting.”

Infuriated by the response, the community council distributed a photograph of the overturned lorry to press and media with the caption: ‘Perhaps this picture tells a different story?’.

Jane Smith who lives in a bungalow around half a mile along the lane from the cross-roads where the lorry began its fateful journey said, “We have big lorries going up this lane all the time. It’s a nightmare.

“This particular lorry made a real mess of the grass verge outside our property and ripped out the stock fencing on a neighbour’s land.”

Olivia Beaumont, clerk to the community council, said the lorry driver kept going, despite losing one of his tyres and a wing mirror, until one side of the vehicle was so far up the hedge that it turned onto its side.

“I’m sure the drivers taking these shortcuts can’t be local. The most likely explanation is that they’re relying on their sat nav. It’s becoming a real problem.”

Chairman of the community council Simon Carbury said that ideally there should be warning signs at all points where HGVs might attempt to leave the main road.

“It’s pointless for lorry drivers to rely on sat nav in these situations. I have the same postcode as a local farrier who lives nearly two miles away!

“It took several days for the lorry in the photograph to be removed from blocking the lane. The firm involved initially sent a flat bed so that half the timber could be offloaded - then a recovery vehicle with a hoist to lift and free the HGV itself.”

Mr Carbury said he used to farm with his brother in the area.

“If the lane had been blocked like this when we were lambing we would have needed to take a five-mile detour to get from one side of the obstruction to the other!”

County Councillor Val Smith said the cost of MCC erecting a sign on the main road would be minimal compared to the cost of retrieving such a vehicle when it got stuck.

“Maybe the signs should carry an image of a large lorry in a horizontal position!” she said.

Councillor Smith who lives in Glascoed, said there were similar problems in her own village.

“I watched a large lorry carrying a load of timber passing through here just the other day,” she said. “On another occasion an HGV transporting fence posts came through - and one of the posts fell off onto the road as it negotiated a corner.

“It’s a problem which seems to be getting worse.”

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