Woodlanders’ Protection Group – “enough is enough” – 29 November 2022 update

The following article is closely based on one supplied to Penny Post by the Woodlanders Protection Group on 23 November 2022.

An early-morning call

Woodlanders Jenny and Andy Hill and their family live on Ermin Street (the B4000) close to the Poughley and Goodings junctions, just down the road from The Pheasant – a notorious black spot. They were awakened at 5.30am on 7 November 2022 when a fully-laden 30 tonne articulated lorry failed to navigate the bend. It tore down trees, hedges and their brick and flint boundary wall before to a juddering halt right under the bedroom where their family had, until that moment, been sleeping.

The emergency services arrived on the scene to attend to the HGV driver and a motorist who also was involved in the accident. Recovery vehicles meant the road was closed for half the day. Power lines had been brought down as well. Jenny and Andy tried to make sense of the destruction of their property. It was a miracle there were no fatalities.

Following that near-death experience, on 16 November history repeated itself. This accident, which occurred on the same stretch of road, also involved a lorry and not one but two other vehicles. The previous week’s scenes of chaos of disruption were re-played, on this occasion with the addition of an Air Ambulance that was called out for the injured drivers.

With four written-off vehicles in ten days, one might expect the lobbying of West Berkshire Council (WBC) and its Highways team would make them react with an immediate plan for traffic-calming measures. But even with the intervention of the Lambourn and Downlands Ward Councillors, no action has yet been taken. It’s likely that  these incidents will likely disappear into the ether. According to the police, fatalities might result in real change. We are not prepared to volunteer.

Prevention has always been better than cure. The cost of the accident resources the accidents demanded (at the taxpayers’ expense) would have been completely unnecessary were there to have been some logical road-safety signage and speed-enforcement equipment. Until something does change, further accidents will surely follow. As Einstein observed, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Traffic volumes

The real issue facing the community is the dramatic increase in traffic volume on the B4000 between Membury and junction 14 of the M4. This has been proved by traffic counter surveys over the last five years. Indeed, in the last two years also, HGV volumes have nearly doubled along this minor, narrow road. Although not designed as a high-speed motorway-access route, that’s exactly what it’s being used as.

The Woodlanders – the residents along this route – believe the primary cause of the traffic surge in HGVs is because of unchecked development at Membury, whose appetite for heavy goods transit is just not being considered seriously enough by WBC’s Planners.

Despite fierce local objections, the most recent Membury development was subsequently waived through by the Council. We believe this decision is unsound and ignores published planning rules. With parish backing on many past planning application objections with the support of our Lambourn Ward Councillor, Woodlanders have taken the tough decision to take WBC to court. The intention is to demonstrate unsound planning decisions and to ensure better planning criteria in the future for development at Membury and, indeed, similar sites elsewhere in the district.

Right now, anyone navigating HGV traffic on Ermin Street, or even living near the road, faces the same terrifying experience as the Hills. If you use the B4000 even occasionally, the safety risks resulting from this continued increase in HGV traffic will affect you.

Despite objections, petitions, endless meetings and polite “we will take that into consideration” responses from WBC over the last four years, it is clear nothing has changed there. Without outside help, it seems that the Woodlanders are powerless to prevent an already dangerous situation becoming a life-threatening one to our community. We all have sympathy for the many who have been impacted by accidents and near misses. But we need more than sentiment to take on the Council and change its planning decisions to manage traffic volume growth intelligently, especially regarding HGVs.

Going to the courts

All other methods of accomplishing this having so far failed, The Woodlanders Protection Group (WPG) has decided to see if the courts can provide a remedy.

The WPG’s case is currently being reviewed by a judge who will decide if there is justification for a court case. If the judge decides that there is, we need to reach a £10,000 fighting fund very quickly (which we now have – see below). We have also applied for a maximum cap for that amount given our community’s limited resources.

We have already raised over half of this sum to fight WBC. Additionally, we are also continuing to put pressure on Highways and the Police to implement traffic calming measures.

How to help

We are reaching out to our local community to ask you for your help with donations, small and large, via our crowd funding page. Click on the link to help us bring about the urgent changes needed to protect residents and all drivers along Ermin Street. Thank you in advance for whatever you can contribute.

If you would like to find out more about the Woodlanders Protection Group, please email woodlandersgroup@gmail.com.

A message from the WPG, 29 November 2022

“Good news – as of 29 November, we have raised £10,000! I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who donated via our fundraising page for their continued support and generosity.

“If you would still like to donate and haven’t done so as yet, its not too late: see the link above. You will see when you visit the page that you can make your donation anonymously if you wish. We set a realistic target of £10,000. Any additional sums will remain in he Woodlanders Fund for costs associated with work undertaken on behalf of the Woodlanders Protection Group.”

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