Horrified Petworth town councillors have been told their long-awaited scheme to ban lorries from the town centre cannot be enforced by police.
Campaigners fought for nearly 20 years to keep heavy lorries out of the town and finally, last May, a new system of signs was put up, further emphasising the 7.5-tonne weight restriction through the centre of Petworth and giving alternative lorry routes.
The 140,000 scheme included signs at the A283 junction at the bottom of Kingspit Lane, pointing lorries right down Angel Street for deliveries to the town only and left along the A283 for all other routes.
But Police Community Support Officer Ian Luxford told town councillors on Thursday: "These signs are just like anyone writing on a bit of cardboard 'no HGVs'; there is no legal requirement to adhere."
He added: "There is no restriction into the town. There has to be access through Petworth."
County councillor Chris Duncton told the meeting: "You cannot ban all the lorry traffic from the town – it is a legal requirement there is a through route."
Judy Howard echoed the sentiments of colleagues when she said: "Not once has anyone said there has to be an access through the town. We have said time and time again, there must be no route through Petworth."
John Morgan, a resident of Angel Street who has been fighting for nearly two decades for the lorry ban, told councillors: "I am absolutely appalled to hear the remarks of the police and the county councillors that lorries are not banned from going through Petworth and the 'unloading only' signs carry no weight at all.
"What the hell have we got all the notices up for?
"I have been involved with the lorry ban campaign since the l990s and I sat on the steering committee for eight years.
"To find this, 20 years on, that the county council and the police are saying there is no weight behind the traffic ban for the ever-increasing size of lorries, is appalling, I have no words to express how I feel about what I have heard."
An exasperated Mr Morgan said he felt like a 'lone voice'.
"I love Petworth and to see it wrecked by large lorries is
heartbreaking. Nobody is taking any notice."
He said he had stood on the corner of East Street and watched lorries on a regular basis go down New Street, through the Square and out the other side without unloading.
"To spend 140,000 on signs and find they carry no weight, as a council tax payer I am aghast."
Chairman of the town council Ken Lintill told him: "I think you will find we are all as gobsmacked as you are."
Cllr Duncton warned: "The scheme was never going to be 100 per cent successful because of satellite navigation directing lorries through the town."
But he said town councillors should ask officers from West Sussex County Council's highways department to come and explain the scheme to them to see if any alterations could be made.
A spokesman for West Sussex County Council said: "The lorry route signs are advisory but they back up and complement the regulatory signs at Pound Street and North Street which are legally enforceable.
"The lorry route signs cover every approach to Petworth town centre and at each appropriate junction drivers pass several lorry route signs and signs forewarning them of the restrictions ahead and the route to take."
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