PETWORTH residents have been calling for heightened road safety measures for nearly a century.
Even in the 1930s, people were campaigning for more to be done.
Ever since, residents have led campaigns, bitter disputes have erupted, and buildings show the physical effects of the damage a lorry can cause.
Despite signage – which many have labelled confusing – lorries continue to use Petworth as a through-route, often getting stuck down its narrow, winding streets.
While councillors say there are ‘95 per cent less lorries’ using the town, residents still criticise haulage firms and find the HGVs ‘terrifying’.
But traders argue that a bypass could ruin business.
So what can be done?
THE LORRY ROUTE DOES WORK...
BOTH Petworth Town Council chairman, Ken Lintill and county councillor Janet Duncton have said ‘95 per cent’ of the lorries that used to come through Petworth, do not do so any more.
The issue was discussed at the last meeting of Petworth Town Council and councillors assured residents they were attempting to meet with West Sussex County Council highways officers to find a solution to the problem – possibly by implementing a 20mph speed restriction.
County councillor Janet Duncton told the Observer: “My first comment would be how brilliant the lorry route has been as those who have lived in Petworth before it can testify.
“It’s not perfect, nothing is, and it would work even better if all lorry drivers actually read the signs and did what they say.
“In January, Kings Pit Lane was closed to traffic one Sunday for signage improvements.
“We are not able to ban lorries from our town totally and the route in, if they have to enter, is via Shimmings Hill and Angel Street.
“I don’t think there are official figures, but in my and other opinions from long-term residents, well over 95 per cent of lorries actually use the route.
“Of course over time lorries have got bigger and some that attempt our medieval town streets get stuck.
“That is one side of it, but another, a problem that could be solved by the drivers themselves, is to follow the lorry route signage which is written large at all five entrances to the town long before you can enter.
“There are special lorry satnavs that any driver worth his salt would use.
“Unfortunately you will always get the driver who decides to go cheap and buys one that you can use in your car.
“These satnavs bring them into the town and, unbelievably to those of us who know the place, takes them into Middle Street.
“This will never be perfect, but there are small things locals can do and I myself have done this.
“Take either the registration number or better still, the name of the company and email address and write to them.
“I had quite an exchange with a company in Manchester whose lorry I followed through the town, down Pound Street and when he got to the mini roundabout he actually did a 360 and came back.
“I realise that on occasions locals and visitors have a hard time with a large vehicle, but rather like speed limits you have to depend on drivers of all vehicles knowing simple rules of the road.
“Our roads are under constant review for improvements and just recently Petworth has had some of these.
“It is not the first and won’t be the last time that signage will need to be looked at.”
BUT MORE COULD BE DONE
Angel Street resident Mr Morgan has long been a campaigner for Petworth’s roads, regularly attending meetings of the town council and asking for more to be done.
“I have been asking for something to be done for more than two years now and cannot understand why Chichester has managed to get a 20mph limit, but Petworth can’t,” he told councillors.
Jackie Crew and Niki Jones own Tiffins Tea Room on the High Street. “As residents and business-owners, it is definitely a problem,” said Jackie.
“We live on a main street into the town – North Street – and the vibrations caused by large vehicles are really quite detrimental to the buildings – one house has been hit several times.
“For traders, it can be difficult because large lorries create gridlock and it is exceptionally difficult to get them out of the town – they need to be manoeuvred by police.
“I understand why they get confused, but perhaps drivers and companies should do research before they go through the town, and perhaps use smaller vehicles.”
Charlotte Loukes is the owner of the Cotton Wool Store in Petworth’s Market Square. “We see the lorries coming straight towards us,” said Charlotte.
But although the situation is worrying for town traders, more worrying is the fact that if a bypass were implemented, less traffic would pass through the town and, some say, less trade.
“We get so much passing trade and it’s nice to have our market town busy,” added Charlotte.
“So I am nervous about the thought of a bypass.
“During times like the Godwood Revival, some of us really go for it and business is great with all the vehicles coming through.
“The problem is, a lot of the haulage companies are European so are simply following a satnav, which sends them the wrong way.”
Rodney Evans said: “Yet again the issue of oversize lorries using Petworth as a ‘rat run’ has reared it’s ugly head.
“Having complained to our county councillor, the inadequate reply we received was that the signing is adequate. Cllr Duncton should look at page three of your last issue – a picture’s worth 1,000 words.”
A resident of Sheepdown Drive, who did not wish to be named, said: “A lorry has just driven down here.
“The driver clearly realised he was in trouble – going towards Petworth – so came into the estate to turn around.
“He has left tracks two feet deep in the grass – huge trenches. I don’t know how anybody with half a brain could have put up the lorry signs in Petworth.
“What makes this so much worse is it was a local, Sussex haulage company – not a foreign one. They should know better.”
A spokesman for West Sussex County Council said: “As far as we are aware there are currently no further proposals to change the signing in and around Petworth.
“Restricting all HGV traffic in the town will prevent some, if not many, of the businesses from operating. Any future changes would have to be at the behest of the county local committee.”