Campaigners fight menace of sat-nav in Midhurst

ONE OF the leaders of the campaign to ban lorries from the old centre of Midhurst has called for support from West Sussex county councillors.

“We are concerned about the danger to the buildings and to the people in the area, and also the adverse affect all this has on the promotion of Midhurst as a delightful market town,” said Sheila Ryan, chairman of the Midhurst Society.

She said there were also concerns about the future of Market Square, where some £400,000 was about to be spent enhancing the area for recreational use: “It is for people’s enjoyment, not for these huge vehicles to be manoeuvring around.”

County councillors hearing Mrs Ryan’s plea were shown a series of graphic images of incidents where huge wide or long vehicles were trying to negotiate West Street, Red Lion Street and the Market Square area, and also of damage caused to the area.

She said there were particular concerns for Sussex House, the historic Cowdray Estate-owned building which has recently been refurbished and is about to reopen as two businesses, as well as the Spread Eagle which dates back to 1430, its historic annexe and the Swan pub – all of which are listed and have been hit by vehicles.

“The Swan is currently being refurbished and about a week ago the newly-painted fascia was struck, leaving a big dent in it,” said Mrs Ryan.

Campaigners were grateful for width restriction signs recently installed, but there was a major problem with lorry drivers, she said, many of whom relied on sat-navs.

The lobby group, led by John Trueman, editor of the online town promotion service Midhurst Pages, want bold black and yellow signs warning driver not to follow their sat-nav systems.

They say width restrictions need back-up warnings until sat-nav companies update their instructions.

“They are urgently needed because sat-nav companies are not under any obligation to change their instructions and it could be a long time before they do so – having these terrible vehicles crashing through the old town is totally counter-productive.”

Chairman of the county local committee Michael Brown asked Mrs Ryan to make her case to Midhurst Town Council. “It would be immeasurably strengthened if the town council were to support it.”