Petition to downgrade A507 between Baldock and Buntingford to be discussed at County Hall

PUBLISHED: 11:54 18 June 2017 | UPDATED: 17:43 18 June 2017

Lorries on the A507 between Baldock and Buntingford.

Lorries on the A507 between Baldock and Buntingford.

Archant

Proposals to downgrade the A507 between Baldock and Buntingford to a B road are set to be discussed at County Hall this week.

Two lorries passing side-by-side in Cottered, at the A507's narrowest point. The road is 5.1m wide, and lorries are up to 2.55m wide each, not including wing mirrors. Campaigners say this makes dangerous pavement-mounting inevitable and frequent. Picture: Safer A507 CampaignTwo lorries passing side-by-side in Cottered, at the A507's narrowest point. The road is 5.1m wide, and lorries are up to 2.55m wide each, not including wing mirrors. Campaigners say this makes dangerous pavement-mounting inevitable and frequent. Picture: Safer A507 Campaign

The petition from the Safer A507 campaign to reclassify the road and introduce a 7.5-tonne weight limit has been signed by some 1,180 people, with North East Herts MP Sir Oliver Heald among its supporters.

The petition was first heard by Herts County Council’s highways cabinet panel on December 1 last year, when councillors voted unanimously in favour of having officers investigate the matter – and the findings are set to be debated in Hertford this Thursday.

The campaigners say that the narrow, twisting carriageway’s designation as an A road means that it is often used by HGV drivers guided by sat-navs to and from the A1(M).

The result is huge lorries thundering through villages like Cottered, and striking Baldock’s low railway bridge several times a year – causing more than £430,000 worth of damage since 2012.

A lorry that struck the railway bridge in Baldock's Station Road last October. Picture: Andy GrahamA lorry that struck the railway bridge in Baldock's Station Road last October. Picture: Andy Graham

Campaign chairman Alan Weston hopes those days will soon be over.

He said: “Cottered has the county girlguiding centre and over 400 people, yet there is no safe crossing to link the village – which the A507 dissects.

“The church and village hall, where the school bus goes from are on one side of the A507, while half the population and their children live on the other.

“County councillors tell us Cottered is unique in Hertfordshire to have a major A road cut it in two. Why is the safety of residents ignored when a cheap solution exists in re-classifying the road from A to B, with a 7.5 tonne weight limit except for access?

“Do we have to wait until a child is killed trying to go to school before the safety of residents is properly prioritised?

“On June 22, come and hear the Highways officers’ solution, and judge for yourself if human safety is worth more than the continued allowing of through HGV traffic to impact on our lives – shaking our houses, new and historic, as they ignore the speed limit.”

The A507 is only 5.1m wide at its narrowest point, in Cottered, where lorries often have to mount the pavement to pass each other.

There have been some changes on the highways cabinet panel since May’s county council elections, and it now includes all county councillors along the route – namely Michael Muir of Baldock Town and Letchworth East, Steve Jarvis of Royston West and Rural, and Jeff Jones of Buntingford.

It is not a decision-making body, but can make recommendations to the county council’s cabinet.

Mr Jones wrote his election literature that he fully supported the campaign’s goals.

He said: “For many years local residents and other road users have suffered the huge number of HGVs that use this unsuitable road as a short cut travelling east to west and vice versa instead of the more suitable available routes.

“With the introduction of a weight restriction, removing HGVs transiting this beautiful area, residents and road users will finally be able to enjoy a much safer environment.”

Mr Muir stressed at the December meeting that he used the road every time he visited County Hall, adding that he thought it “a very dangerous road”.

Ahead of Thursday’s meeting, the campaigners have cited police traffic statistics showing what they regard as excessive HGV traffic on the A507 between Baldock and Buntingford.

Among other things, the surveys showed more than 61,000 vehicles going through Cottered during a week in April, including 2,193 HGVs.

Bodies formally supporting the petition include Buntingford Town Council, Cottered, Walkern and Ardeley parish councils, and Girlguiding Hertfordshire.

According to agenda documents published in advance by the county council, officers will recommend that the councillors endorse looking into a 7.5-tonne weight limit, but not reclassification as a B road.

The reasoning given for this is that there is a lack of evidence that downgrading the A507 to a B road would result in traffic using other routes,“particularly given local knowledge and the inconsistency of satllite navigation systems for non-locals”.

The A507 provides a 12-mile route from the A10 at Buntingford to the A1(M)’s Junction 10 for Baldock Services, compared to 23 miles via Royston and the A505, and 32 miles using the A602 via Ware and Stevenage.

The full agenda can be read on Herts County Council’s website at bit.ly/2sdAE7d.

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