Campaigners who want to ban HGVs from St John’s Hill says that new signage is making a difference but more still needs to be done.
Peter Shouler’s request to restrict heavy vehicles from the B3091, between Bimport and St James, has been featured by national and regional media since 2004. His quest for action has continued and he delivered a petition to Dorset County Council in December 2015.
After a succession of large lorries became grounded on the hill this summer, Peter launched a Facebook page as part of his campaign. There has been a sign warning that the steep hill is unsuitable for large vehicles for some time but speaking to Alfred in July, resident Julia Holman said it was simply advisory and not legally enforceable.
In the summer, Peter outlined his solution. He would like an official HGV ban, signage to say one was in place and for Dorset Council to reclassify St John’s Hill so the route would appear unsuitable when viewed on sat navs. “We want a 7.5 tonne weight limit where the Coles Lane junction is, to have the (St John’s Hill) road downgraded from a B-road and the alternative route upgraded to a B-road,” said Peter. That alternative route would send HGV’s heading towards Shaftesbury on the B3091 left at Coles Lane and through Cherry Orchard to the A30.
Peter showed ThisIsAlfred his written correspondence with the former Dorset County Council. He says he received no reply from them until MP Simon Hoare acted as an intermediary in 2016. Dorset County Council’s Director for Environment Mike Harries then responded, acknowledging the petition and pointing out that HGVs presented a widespread problem in Dorset, but added that Highways was investigating.
Last week, Shaftesbury Town Council wrote on its social media page that new weight limit signs had been erected, ‘following public requests for a weight limit on St John’s Hill’. But the new signs might not be due to ‘people power’. We asked Dorset Council whether the change had come about due to the residents’ requests or the MP’s intervention. But in a statement they wrote that Dorset Council was unaware of any correspondence between residents and the MP. That might be because, Dorset Council is a separate body from the former Dorset County Council.
Dorset Council did confirm that new signs were in place as an ‘upgrade’ on the old ones. “There is a weight limit on St James Street and because of this we have erected a 7.5 tonne restriction ahead sign. The other signs give HGVs directions to the A30 and A350,” their spokesman said.
Peter welcomes the new signage, especially ‘the visual element which should help drivers from Europe’. He says that he assumes that no traffic regulation order has been applied, in which case he argues that it is still legal to drive a 44 tonne truck through Shaftesbury town centre, even if the driver isn’t specifically accessing the town.
Peter points out the anomaly that there are weight limits on all other routes into Shaftesbury except St John’s Hill and Foyle Hill. He wants a St John’s Hill restriction but he accepts that the sign (pictured second from top) highlighting the St James Street HGV restriction, ‘hints at a weight limit whilst avoiding the cost of providing it’. He gives Dorset Council credit for ‘an imaginative solution’ in ‘using the St James weight limit as a proxy.’
It is early days, but it would appear that the new signage is dissuading some lorry drivers, who might believe that the signed ban relates to St John’s Hill. Julia Holman thinks the sign has made a difference, although as she responded to our email, she added that ‘a gigantic lorry was making its way up the hill’. It got through.
Peter says he hopes that the ‘welcome upgrade’ of new signs bring ‘the desired effect’ and he hopes this will be ‘properly sorted out one day’.