‘Astonishing’ figures brought to light in a new traffic survey has revealed a lorry nightmare in Petworth which is even worse than townspeople feared.
The survey was commissioned by Petworth town councillors to gain ammunition for their plea for action from West Sussex County Council’s highways officers.
They are campaigning for measures to stop huge lorries thundering illegally into the town centre which become stuck and cause traffic chaos on the narrow streets of the ancient market town.
Lorry signs ban vehicles over 7.5 tonnes entering the town at all unless they are delivering and those can only use Angel Street.
But the survey has revealed that from mid to June to mid July 226 lorries over 7.5 tonnes came into town via Angel Street - 31 of which were over 40 tons, a further 228 over 7.5 tonnes entered through Pound Street - 18 of which were over 40 tons and another 866 also over 7.5 tonnes used North Street, 104 of which were over 40 tons.
Chairman of Petworth Town Council Chris Kemp said: “This is worse than I had realised and it demonstrates that we suffer very badly from these lorries in the town. I believe about 99 per cent of them are coming through illegally.
“The figures are astonishing and give us good ammunition to fight for a solution to our lorry problem.
“This shows there are a large number of lorry movements through our town for the sake of it every month.”
Town councillors believe that the £140,000 lorry signs installed after a previous campaign, some ten years ago are ineffective, unclear and in the wrong places.
They commissioned the £1,600 survey at their own cost using a company recommended by county highways officers because it produced the criteria the county council required before they are prepared to consider action. “I think it’s going to be quite difficult for them to walk away from these figures,” said Chris.
In addition to the lorry figures, the survey has revealed a shocking number of cars speeding in the centre where the speed limit is 30mph.
In the month from mid June to mid July it showed a daily average of 1428 cars entering the town via Angel Street and 85 per cent of them were doing an average speed of 35 mph.
An average 5055 came in through Pound Street with 85 per cent travelling at an average 30mph and 5153 came in via North Street daily with 85 per cent doing an average 32 mph.
“A lot of time traffic is crawling through the town,” said Chris, “so an average 85 per cent doing these speeds is really a bit scary.”
He said he had been sceptical about claims of speeding before the survey: “When you are walking, cars passing you at 30mph can seem very fast. But lots of people have told me traffic is speeding in Petworth and I think this survey shows they are right.”
He said a previous survey had showed the average speed of cars in the town centre was 12-18mph. But counters in the new survey had picked up speeding at the edge, inside the speed limits, where there were parked cars.
Petworth Business Association (PBA) is also carrying out a survey and all its members have been asked for information on how they receive goods.
“This will give us a complete list of what deliveries we have in the town,” said Chris.
“The results so far are very surprising and show most of the shops are stocked by van or car,” he said although there were larger known lorry deliveries including to the supermarket and to the Post Office.
“We are still waiting for the final results of the PBA survey, but what we have so far demonstrates most lorries are just passing through.”
He added: “All the results demonstrate the current signage is not adequate - it is not fit for purpose.”
Once all the information was gathered, he said town councillors would have to sit down and work out a strategy to solve the town’s traffic problems.
“We know the county council does not have any money but if we can agree a strategy with them to solve the problem, we will find the money somehow.”
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