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Politicians love them planners breed 'em

1st May 1982, Page 50
1st May 1982
Page 50
Page 51
Page 50, 1st May 1982 — Politicians love them planners breed 'em
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

THE DAY lorries, airports, or nuclear power stations become objects of public affection, this planet will be encircled by flying pigs, and trees will be bedecked in banknotes. The industry can try to convince the public that lorries are an indispensable feature of the consumer society, but I doubt whether it will ever overcome people's basic dislike of the things. Nor the noise, smell, and vibration which the public imagines they create.

It is this inescapable fact which has made lorry bans increasingly popular with local authorities since Conservative MP Hugh Dykes gave his name to the hideously titled Heavy Commercial Vehicles (Control and Regulations) Act of 1973. According to the Department of Transport, around 850 traffic regulation orders including lorry bans have been made in recent years. Freight Transport Association figures show that last year alone, 126 new amenity bans were imposed in England and Wales.

Most of the schemes are very small — few have even been heard of beyond their locality — but there have been some momentous milestones.

The A58 ban near Leeds was one, and the Windsor Cordon which survived the FTA, Road Haulage Association, and National Farmers' Union's joint challenge before Lord Denning in the Appeal Court two years ago was another. If the Wood Inquiry's protracted deliberations lead to anything approaching the eight, 16, or 24tonne gross weight limits floated by the Greater London Council, then an entirely new frontier will have been established.

There are serious doubts about the GLC's powers to impose blanket bans across London, but the general powers available in the Dykes Act are nonetheless considerable. County councils or agent district councils may impose prohibitions or restrictions, usually by gross weight, but sometimes by length or width, on any sections of road in their area (not Department of Transport roads), subject to access being granted to vehicles serving premises in the area.

There are powers to designate lorry routes, to which vehicles can be restricted, lorry priority measures such as exist in the form of no-car lanes at West Bridgford, in Nottingham, and at Balham, in South London, and to impose waiting, loading, unloading, and overnight parking bans.

To politicians, lorry bans are a Godsend. They cost local authorities very little to implement, beyond the initial cost of erecting new road signs, yet they achieve significant environmental effects in areas troubled by lorries, or, if one is more cynical,' in areas inhabited by influential and articulate people who feel troubled by lorries. There is an extra cost, but that has to be borne by the lorry operator and, ultimately, his costamers. However, it is not an extra cost which is likely to reflect unfavourably upon the politician who authorises the ban.

That irresistible attraction of lorry bans has won over Transport Secretary David Howell, who has been trawling the treasure chest of DTp goodies to try to assemble a package of measures which will win over the opponents of his 40-tonne lorry. The DTp has circulated draft details of the potential of bans, and Mr Howell has indicated that counties which adopt lorry control measures will be rewarded accordingly in the next Transport Supplementary Grant share-out.

The general tone of the DTp's draft circular, which was issued to local government, police, env i ro n m en ta I, and industry groups in February, was that insufficient use has been made of the Dykes Act powers. It cites the four counties in Yorkshire and Humberside as glowing examples of what can be done; they implemented 114 amenity orders. Yet other counties with similar problems have done very little.

It accepts that the overal costs, tc industry, of any ordei must be Kept in proportion to thE environmental gain, and thai every effort should be made tc prevent one area's problem from being dumped on to some one else's patch.

But it adds: "The Secretary ol State is convinced that if local authorities are sufficiently determined to tackle the problem ol lorries using unsuitable roads and streets, and to use theil control powers constructively with vigour and imagination, e good deal of further progress can be made."

The best bans, according tc the DTp circular, are those which enforce themselves, but local authorities, it feels, should nol regard compliance of less than 100 per cent as a disaster. Even il only 70 to BO per cent of lorries in a problem area observe a ban, local residents are likely to be happier than they would be with no ban at all.

Representatives of the trans .ort industry hardly welcome is DTp message, though.

There is a view on this side of -le fence that the DTp has tarted from a false premise in uggesting that local authorities eve been slow in implementing iens. Far from it, operators rgue, and say instead that ouncils have stepped back from -nposing unreasonable addional costs on industry.

There also is little latitude for )cal authorities where few alterative routes exist for lorries. The FTA controller of planning nd traffic services, Richard .urner, and Don McIntyre, his -affic officer, whose vigilance as helped the transport indus-y influence councils in their ap'roach to lorry problems, hapiily quote a DTp economist who aid once:

"Just because a problem ex;ts does not mean there is a olution."

In other words, a ban may not olve a problem.

Richard Turner insists that the TA does not oppose bans in iriniciple. But he and his staff do II they can to encourage local uthorities to pursue alternative pproaches such as improved ignposting to encourage unvented traffic out of problem reas.

At present, the London ioroughs of Enfield and Barnet re conducting a public consul3tion exercise into the case for a 0 square mile ban in an area iounded by the M25, and the 406 North Circular Road, 3rgely because of a persistently eavy volume of lorry traffic on -le A111 Cockfosters Road.

At one stage, the ban was to le introduced before the M25 as extended into the area, but eason prevailed for before-andfter traffic surveys to be onducted. Another troubled cod, the A1005, lost 76 per cent if the over-16-ton lorries using it fter the M25 opened, but the 1/4111 has lost only 24 per cent of :s equivalent traffic, and there is lo question that the residential rea it crosses is subjected to nore heavy lorry traffic than it lught to.

Richard argues that a blanket an is an inappropriate measure D take, as he believes that signlosting to the M25 is ineffective. letter notices, rather than a ban which will make life difficult for :ssential delivery vehicles, are he answer which FTA advocates -1 this case.

It is the round of public consulation exercises and public inluiries into proposed bans vhich occupies much of the TA's time, and arouses Richard Ind Don's ire. Hertfordshire County Council has circulated proposals for an as yet unspecified ban covering a 40 square mile area around St Albans and Harpenden. It has gone to considerable lengths to appear to act fairly, and is circulating a questionnaire asking for the public's view about the effect of bans and whether or not they want them.

So far so good, but Richard points out that no member of the public is likely to say no to a ban on vehicles whose use is unknown to them. It is a bit like those public opinion polls which ask whether you are against sin.

And he is equally unhappy with the county's assertion that the Windsor Cordon — very much a model for Hertfordshire — had an overall beneficial effect. The reverse, he says, is the case, even although some Windsor residents have had their lives made more pleasant.

The FTA, and other trade organisations, recognise the very real problems which the St Albans scheme is trying to solve, but also see it as the thick end of a very thick wedge which could be propelled at supersonic speed if the GLC adopts even the "marginal nasty" of an overnight or weekend ban on heavy vehicles in London.

Surrey has already made clear to the Wood Inquiry that it would apply its own bans if London vehicles were pushed over the GLC border by a weight limit, and it requires little imagination to envisage similar moves in Essex, Kent, and other surrounding counties.

And the "What London does today ...." argument also applies to the other British conurbations, as they too can be expected to impose much stricter controls than they do at present.

Many will follow Hertfordshire and the DTprs line in carrying out public consultation exercises, but Richard complains that these do not spell out the economic consequences of a ban. He accepts that, if the FTA had an unlimited budget for traffic management affairs, it could produce its own publicity material for public consumption, but doubts whether even his wildest dreams could stretch to the FTA holding its own prolorry public meetings in affected areas. Apart from anything else, bans are spreading wider and wider across the country, and Richard's staff might need to expand to the proportions of the Falklands task force.

The alternative approach is to treat each ban separately, and try to dissuade councils from adoting the most stupid ones.

Don McIntyre is still basking in the reflected glory of having helped dissuade a Government inspector from backing a Lancashire County Council proposal for a ban at Chatburn, a village near Clitheroe (CM, March 27). That scheme would have involved lorries making a 170 degree turn on to a road, in order to avoid the village, and it was this safety aspect which

went against the ban. Richard sets it in its perspective, saying "Chatburn gives us a yardstick with which to judge future cases. It is not a major milestone, just one of the buoys in charting the water."

It may not be remembered by other local authorities, but it is a victory which will encourage the FTA to continue its fight against the silliest of proposed bans.

Pedestrianisation schemes have much in common with amenity lorry bans, even if they are implemented for different reasons. There, they are applied to improve the shopping environment in established town and city centres, often to compete with purpose-built shopping malls which act as magnets to shoppers, and threaten to suck them away from their traditional haunts. The lorry is no more of an enemy in these cases than the car or bus, although the latter often comes off better as it is seen to bring in


The FTA adopts a similar approach here as it does to amenity schemes, opposing the most obnoxious to its members, rather then the idea in principle. Where shops have rear access for goods, there is no problem, but otherwise it opposes those schemes which make delivery. difficult, and especially those which leave drivers having to carry goods over long distances. A proposed scheme in Peterborough involves drivers carrying goods for more than 400ft from their van to shops, a distance FTA considers excessive.

An added problem with pedestrianisation is that schemes are often brought in on an experimental basis, and so avoid the full fanfare of legal procedures before they are introduced. Indeed, some experimental schemes take on a very permanent appearance, and there are still some FTA regional staff who recall going to a council meeting in Manchester to give evidence about an experimental scheme being considered, and who passed workmen that day who were laying down the paving stones for the scheme. Sometimes, consultation takes on a peculiar meaning.

Be that as it may, lorry controls are here to stay, and operators will be faced with increasing limits on the roads they may use. It is a price which has to be paid for living in a democratic society, but it is a price which is also discounted thanks to the stalwart efforts of the trade associations as they challenge the more questionable restraints.

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