The long-awaited Water Street Experimental Weight Restriction has now been installed by Suffolk County Highways Department and became operational on the 15th January 2019. Experimental schemes are valid for 18 months and during that time they can be modified or withdrawn. At the conclusion of 18 months they must become permanent or withdrawn.
The purpose of this scheme is to provide additional road safety for pedestrians where there are narrow or no pavements and protection for buildings and roadside property from heavy goods vehicles. Vehicles in excess of 7.5 tonnes are now not allowed to travel east along Water Street except to gain access to make deliveries or collections there.
This action has been taken in response to numerous instances of damage being caused to buildings and other property by large vehicles. There have also been many complaints from residents and visitors that they feel fearful of large vehicles when walking in Water Street.
The difficulty remains that Water Street and the High Street are part of the A1141. This route is seen by some guidance systems, or word of mouth between drivers, to be a shortcut from the A134 near Cockfield to the A1171 near Hadleigh. Such guidance systems do not take account of the nature of a road, just its designation. Suffolk Highways have installed signage at these junctions to direct lorries away from the A1141, but these are not mandatory. We have asked Highways to add to these signs that there is now a weight restriction at Lavenham as further discouragement to drivers of large vehicles.
We need to take into account the necessity of large vehicles coming to Lavenham to supply shops and other premises and other elements of the local economy such as agriculture.
Over many years, lorries have become ever larger and more numerous. There are satnavs that are programmed specifically for lorries, but these are more expensive than those produced for cars. Our local Member of Parliament, James Cartledge, has been pressing for lorries to only be equipped with suitable devices that will keep lorries away from using narrow roads and village environments. This is not just an issue for us in Lavenham but at present the government sees this as a matter that will be sorted out nationally by the haulage industry.
Much discussion has taken place involving residents, businesses, parish and district councillors as well as county councillors and engineers. The scheme as it has been implemented has taken account of different view points and we will continue to be pleased to receive comments and observations on the effectiveness and appearance of the scheme.
In addition, the parish council has been exploring options to address the issue of inconsiderate and dangerous pavement parking in inappropriate locations around the village. There are some places where pavement parking can be considered acceptable and pavement surfaces reflect this. We will look to extend this philosophy to other locations. However, there are places where this is not acceptable, especially for pedestrians (including the users of mobility scooters, walking aids and child buggies) and we have agreed with Suffolk County Highways that the use of street furniture such as planters, benches etc is a practicable method of preventing such parking. This is considered to be a better way forward than enforcement which requires police resources which are simply no longer available.
Each location must be considered carefully, and funding found to purchase and install the solution so this will be an ongoing project. We have identified a Suffolk based supplier of planters and benches that provides employment for less able members of society and we propose to purchase wood items from them.
Again, we would welcome your views and comments on this approach to parking on pavements in Lavenham.