At last, a Government measure has been announced that should be popular with everyone in the countryside. Plans unveiled last week would give local councils the power to deem certain roads unsuitable for large vehicles by reclassifying them, thus preventing satnavs from suggesting them.
Currently, only the Department of Transport can reclassify roads, and councils have been deterred from intervening by the amount of bureaucracy involved. When road statuses have been changed, information will be passed to satnav manufacturers, who can re-direct drivers accordingly.
The move comes after several accidents involving coaches and lorries being wedged under bridges or stuck down single-track lanes due to following their satnavs. There has also been a steady rise in complaints from villagers saying commercial vehicles are destroying ancient roadside buildings and endangering pedestrians.
In Hampshire, Sir George Young MP had promised villagers in Kingsclere that he would bring up the satnav issue in Parliament. Anthony Greayer, who has been leading the village’s campaign for a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) that would limit lorries using it as a rat-run, says: ‘We would welcome the new law, provided it could be imposed without it being a costly process. Unfortunately, we’ve been told by Hampshire County Council that a TRO is expensive.’
Mr Greayer adds: ‘A survey showed that the criteria [for a TRO] were overwhelmingly met, but the council would still prefer a lower-cost alternative. This is despite the fact that, on Swan Street alone, we have 40 listed buildings where windows rattle, pictures fall off walls and people are afraid to open their front doors for fear of being hit. Signs will have little impact on those HGV drivers who know the route already.’
Europe’s largest provider of satnav systems, TomTom, welcomes the news, as does the CPRE. In Freshford, Somerset, a seven-year campaign ended last year, when residents were allowed to erect signs saying the tiny lanes were ‘unsuitable for heavy goods vehicles’, and Satnav data-provider Navteq agreed to delete the route.