HUGE lorries can legally ignore a 7.5 tonne weight limit on Dark Lane in Hungerford – provided they have a “justified reason”.
The Denford cattle grid and gate and Dun Mill bridge are regularly damaged by 12-wheel vehicles trying to negotiate the narrow carriageway.
Resident Colin Tompkins warned last month there was a risk of a tragedy at the rail bridge at Lower Denford.
He said: “Although the authorities have put up signs restricting lorries up to 7.5 tonnes weight to use this route, these signs are ignored on many occasions with drivers either deliberately or blindly following sat nav advice.
“This continued practice could result in a similar event happening at Hungerford with potentially terrible consequences. However, no one in authority seems to want to police the weight restriction in place.”
Trustee of the Town and Manor Robert James has campaigned for the authorities to take a tougher line.
Now West Berkshire Council traffic and road safety officer Alex Drysdale has dropped a bombshell.
He revealed a legal loophole that allowed lorries to ignore the signs with impunity – so long as they are utility vehicles as, indeed, most of them are.
Mr Drysdale told Mr Roberts: “The Traffic Regulation Order which came into operation in January 2012 and which ensures this weight restriction can be enforced includes standard exemptions within the legal preamble to allow vehicles to enter the area if they have a justified reason.
“Specifically this allows buses, emergency service vehicles, utility services vehicles and other such vehicles which may require access to service properties or businesses within that length of road (furniture removal, delivery vehicles etc) to enter without fear of prosecution.”
He added: “As the sewage treatment plant is within the length of restricted road, any vehicle making deliveries (loading or unloading) would not be in breach of the traffic order.”
Mr Drysdale concluded: “If vehicles are causing damage on the highway, then there are measures that can be taken to try and recover costs for repair, as there are for any similar damage on any other part of the road network, but it would seem that these vehicles servicing the sewage plant are able to enter the weight limit.
Mr James said the situation was “quite ridiculous” but there was some hope from a council trading standards enforcement officer, Phil Mitchell.
He told Mr James: “I have noted the messages that have passed between Alex Drysdale and yourself. There is little more that I can add save to say that a local resident is currently providing me with information in respect of vehicles that are using Dark Lane and suspected of being in excess of the 7.5 tonne gross weight limit and I do have investigations in progress. I will continue to monitor the situation.”