Lavenham calls for HGV weight limit on medieval road due to safety concerns
Fears are growing that a tragedy on a Lavenham street is only a matter of time, as villagers call for the urgent implementation of limitations on HGVs.
Residents of Water Street are still waiting for a trial weight restriction – which they say was promised by Suffolk County Council months ago – to be introduced, following a number of instances of property damage and near misses as a result of large vehicles driving down the narrow lane.
Jonathan Hill, proprietor of bed-and-breakfast business The Priory at the top end of the street, argued the measure needed to be brought forward immediately, following an incident last week when a lorry narrowly avoided hitting pedestrians standing at the entrance to the building.
“I observed a group of elderly tourists who literally had to breath in with their backs against our front door as drivers mounted the pavement outside,” he said.
“Many of our guests have expressed total bewilderment that lorries of this size are allowed to use Water Street. It is acutely embarrassing to have to agree with them.
“Apart from the effect this inappropriate road usage is having on the buildings in the area, I can honestly see a human tragedy happening.
“It is just a matter of time, and immediate action must be taken to avoid this.”
Supporters of the weight restriction have also pointed to an instance earlier this summer when a lorry hit a medieval house at the bottom end of the street and knocked several tiles off the roof, which had only recently been repaired after it was damaged by another lorry crashing into it.
Carroll Reeve, chairman of Lavenham Parish Council, explained councillors have been calling for a weight restriction for at least six years and the funding had been approved, but they had no idea when it may be brought in.
He said their optimism for action being taken had “more or less evaporated”.
“There are dozens of pictures of very large vehicles going down there. They are a danger to pedestrians and a danger to life,” he said.
“It’s just become bureaucratic. It’s not action based.”
Suffolk county councillor Robert Lindsay, who represents Lavenham, said both he and his predecessor had tried to advance the measure, but he felt there was not any sense of urgency from the county’s highways department.
“Blocking off Water Street to lorries from one direction and effectively widening the pavement, I see as a great solution to the pollution, damage and noise problems that residents and visitors are dogged by on the street,” said Cllr Lindsay.
“The engineer responsible for the project promised a start at the beginning of August, but it would seem he is currently on holiday and no one seems to know when he is returning.
“I am sure this project will happen eventually, but, as for the timing, it seems no one can say.”
A spokesman for Suffolk County Council confirmed there were plans to implement the limit, but did not specify a date.
“We have been working with Lavenham Parish Council to address the impact of large vehicles using Water Street,” he said.
“As part of this, we are planning to implement an experimental one-way weight restriction to prevent vehicles larger than 7.5 tonnes entering Water Street from High Street and Church Street.
“While the restriction is in place, we will monitor the impact this has on the area and review the need for it.”