Solution to weighty issue hits farmers in Old Warden

Old Warden ENGPNL00120140702111255
Old Warden ENGPNL00120140702111255

A weight restriction on HGVs travelling through Old Warden would have “a catastrophic effect on local businesses”, it has been claimed.

There were only “limited exemptions” over the ban on lorries and other large vehicles going through Old Warden, according to Stephen Home, who represents the Shuttleworth Trust, which owns the Old Warden estate.

Talks were held between Central Bedfordshire Council, Old Warden Parish Council and Mr Home about the proposed change to the speed limit.

“But the weight restriction was introduced later in the scheme and was not subject to any prior stakeholder review,” he told a CBC traffic management meeting.

“The HGV ban affects businesses in a wider area than just the village itself,” he explained.

“This includes agricultural vehicles and deliveries to residential, commercial and farm properties.

“The proposal will have a devastating effect on the farming of agricultural land around the village.

“As drafted the order would prevent vehicles travelling from one end of the village to the other.

“The proposal fails to take into account that roads to the east of the village are often closed for major events at Shuttleworth,” said Mr Home.

“The Shuttleworth Trust supports the principle of preventing HGVs using Old Warden as a rat run from the A1 to the A600 for Bedford.

“But the current proposal has not been thought through properly and would have a catastrophic effect on local businesses.”

Traffic measures for Old Warden were prompted by parish council concerns over speeding and HGV movements through the village, said CBC’s area technician highways Charlotte Dunham.

“The proposals we are bringing are a 50mph on a section of Hill Lane, near Shuttleworth aerodrome, two 40mph buffers and a 20mph speed limit through Old Warden itself.”

The aim was to apply a gradual approach slowing vehicles, as they come into and leave the village, in a systematic way, explained Old Warden parish councillor Sue Carrie.

“We are delighted with the 20mph limit. It’s long overdue. Pedestrians find themselves walking in the road at the moment.

“There’s a steep bank on one side of the highway and people’s houses abut on the other side.

“You find yourself walking at night and a juggernaught is heading towards you. It’s not very pleasant.

“Some bends are hazardous where most of the accidents happen, and they are still under national speed limit.

“What we never set out to do was to restrict local businesses or indeed local farmers and we don’t believe the order is drafted to help them.”

Farmer tenant of the Shuttleworth Trust Peter Allen said his business was not consulted.

“The 7.5 tonne weight restriction would mean an 11-mile detour to be able to get to land that is only several hundred yards apart.

“The report says there have been no accidents in the last five years, so I question where the safety comes into it.

“I am not against the speeds coming down in the village,” he added. “Ideally either no wait restriction or one which allows agricultural vehicles to go through it from one end to the other.”

Mark Robins, who represents the Southill estate, said: “The first time we were aware that this matter had been brought to anyone’s attention was on May 24th when someone from the NFU got in touch with us.

“We use that road network during the harvest and cultivation periods. We would support traffic calming measures in Old Warden. Everyone wants to see safer villages.

“But we believe consultation on this matter should have been more widespread than it has apparently been.”

Northill councillor Frank Firth said he supported the scheme. But he warned that drivers would be confused by the buffer speed limits ranging from 40mph to 60mph and might ignore those.

“There is definitely a requirement for an HGV ban in Old Warden. About 90 per cent of the properties are listed and have little or no foundations,” he explained.

“HGVs travelling through there would be detrimental to the buildings.

“But I sympathise with everyone. The ban is defeating what we’re trying to achieve. HGVs can still drive through the centre of the village.”

Arlesey councillor Ian Dalgarno said: “I do agree the HGV ban has not been thought through, and the implications of it with the local farming community, the level of consultation.

“So I am going to pull that in its entirity. We will not implement any of that,” added Cllr Dalgarno, who chairs the meeting.

“If we do bring forward a plan it has to satisify the needs of the local community and in a wider context the landowners, the farmers and everyone who operates in that area.”