Marlborough traffic: meeting hears positive, practical ideas - but on the bigger picture it was more like dreaming
Nearly one hundred people attended a follow-up meeting in the Town Hall to discuss again the traffic and parking woes of residents of Kingsbury, Silverless, Herd and Barn Streets. Joining them on the top table were four of Wiltshire Council's highways officers, all four of the Marlborough area's unitary councillors and Councillor Bridget Wayman who is now Wiltshire Council's cabinet member for highways.
The meeting was chaired by Wiltshire Councillor James Sheppard and agenda identified four main issues: speed (notably in Kingsbury Street), HGVs (in all of the above streets), parking (everywhere) and traffic volumes (ditto).
The meeting started quite slowly - so much so that after just eighteen minutes one resident walked out: "Total waste of time", she said as she left and indicating the top table added: "You'll get nowhere with this lot." She should have stayed - it got very interesting.
The meeting did get a little bogged down at the start on the 'informal crossing' by Pattern Alley - used by many people and schoolchildren crossing from St Mary's Church and going toward the High Street.
A suggestion from the floor that coloured road surfaces might stop drivers speeding round that corner appealed to Councillor Nick Fogg and is to be taken up by the Area Board's traffic group - which has a small annual budget. There is also the repeated promise of a sign at the top of Kingsbury Street warning off HGVs - like the sign by the Town Hall.
The meeting was a little hamstrung over speed as the Town Council currently has 20 'metro counts' (those double cables across a street attached to a box beside the road) as part of their consultation on introducing a 20MPH limit in the town. The results on the speed and numbers of vehicles will not be available for a while.
Although residents claimed there was a lot of speeding along Kingsbury Street, Adrian Hampton of the Council said the facts did not support this and thought it was a matter of perception.
On HGVs Councillor Fogg produced some facts. In 2004 1,958 HGVs used Herd and Barn Street each day. By 2016 that number had dropped to 726. But as Councillor Fogg said that is an awful lot of trucks - over 24-hours it is 30 an hour. And - as someone shouted out - they are now much larger and heavier than in 2004.
There were three really interesting interventions on HGVs. First, Tanya Eccleston who lives on The Green and notes the companies that send their HGV's through the town.
She spotted huge Sainsbury trucks and wrote them 'a very polite letter' asking why they came through Marlborough as they have no shops in the area. They replied that they did not know their trucks were using the route and it would be stopped.
Casey Smith lives in one of the houses in Barn Street with a front door opening straight onto the narrow pavement. Her description of the care she has to take before leaving home and the chance of being hit on the head by a wing mirror - or worse - certainly caught the attention of the meeting: "It is really, really dangerous."
It was agreed that a barrier or fence would be put in to keep HGVs off the pavement - another job for the Area Board's transport group. There were no guesses at how many times HGV drivers would trash such a barrier - rather than wait their turn to negotiate the Barn Street 'pinch point'.
'Citizen action' can work. Picking up Ms Eccleston's point, Simon Cordery said residents should make use of companies' discomfort at having their reputation tarnished when their HGV drivers risking people's life and limb by driving over pavements and damaging buildings on streets that should not be used by HGVs.
It takes, he explained, very little research to find the company and a board member or chairman and write or email them explaining what their drivers are doing. They will not like what they read.
On the wider front the prospects for change were not so good. Town Councillor Guy Loosmore, who had worked on an ultimately unsuccessful proposal to get the A346 'de-primed' (i.e. taken off the list of primary routes), wanted to try again. He said the previous plan had been scuppered by Wiltshire Council on cost grounds. Something Spencer Drinkwater of Wiltshire Council disputed.
Even though, as was pointed out, the route through Marlborough does not appear on Wiltshire Council's strategic freight route map, there seemed little hope the A346 would ever have fewer HGVs. Why? Well, if you stop them using the A346, they just go through another town.
Summing up Councillor Bridget Wayman, who had been asked from the floor to 'take ownership' of an integrated plan for Marlborough's traffic, said she understood the problems: "I hear this from practically every town in Wiltshire."
"I don't want to get anybody's hopes up. I will undertake to look at it and see what can be done." But, she warned, it would take time.
And - some last words - it was pointed out that maintaining road surfaces would ease some of the problems like the noise and vibrations from HGVs. That got the longest and wordiest response from Wiltshire Council's head of local highways. And George Lane was not even on the agenda.
There was also a warning that Wiltshire Council could not spend a lot of money just on one town's problems. In a future article marlborough.news will show how new government money for transport is not being used in the Marlborough area.