South Newington village hall was near to capacity last Tuesday as villagers continued their fight against HGVs.
Residents were joined by Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) leader Ian Hudspeth, senior transport planner for the county Owen South and Stephanie Garnett, senior parliamentary assistant to local MP Victoria Prentis.
The road in question stretches from Oxford Road in Banbury through Chipping Norton and on towards Swindon and for the past five years has been increasingly used by large 40-tonne lorries as a cut through, particularly when the A40 and A34 are blocked.
The main concerns raised about the narrow, twisting roads of South Newington are about safety and the environment, concerns which are supported by statistics for the Oxfordshire stretch of the A361.
David Swan, a local resident, presented the meeting with an overview of the roads danger. He said: “The stretch of the A361 is the eighth riskiest road in Britain, it is the second most riskiest road in the south east and is the most dangerous stretch of road in the county.”
Three potential measures have been put forward that would see vehicles of a certain weight restricted or banned from using the stretch of road and would see them diverted around the area, but all have major obstacles to overcome.
John Braithwaite, former chairman of the parish council, suggested a wider approach to the problem with a bypass west of Deddington then using the B4031 through Hempton whilst downgrading the A road status of the South Newington stretch.
He said: “This would alleviate the problem here, in Bloxham and problems in Deddington, Adderbury and Hempton.”
Cllr Hudspeth dismissed the idea saying: “One of the issues we do have is that the funding for those roads (bypasses) tends to come from more development particularly business development.”
He added: “If you go back 20 or 30 years ago the Department for Transport was giving funding for bypasses very readily. That funding isn’t available now.”
A further option open to the parish council is to apply for an environmental weight restriction of 7.5 tonnes which Burford, just past Chipping Norton, are attempting.
Mr South said: “They’re not that common for A roads. It may fall down due to local access. The geography is difficult here because for local journeys there aren’t good alternatives.”
A blanket ban on heavy vehicles by imposing a structural weight limit also has parameters which South Newington may be unable to meet.
Mr South said: “A structural weight limit would be assessed on its merits. We’re also saying to town and parish councils if you want a weight limit you will have to pay for it.
“We would be looking to the town, parish or local donors. You would be looking at £50,000 for that.”
For a village of 125 houses this seems unlikely and would need the support of the wider community.
Other potential solutions raised included widening the bends and installing traffic lights reactive to HGVs allowing them free passage around the two hairpin bends and a voluntary re-routing by local haulers.
Mrs Prentis said: “I am pleased that Oxfordshire County Council has taken on board the comments from residents, and may try some form of mapping to encourage hauliers to consider a different route too.”
OCC have promised to evaluate the ideas.