two children walking home from school with a large lorry behind them on the roadImage source, Helen Harrington

Image caption,

Residents say they share a narrow road to and from school with lorries from the quarry

By Ruth Bradley

Political reporter, BBC Radio Somerset

People living near a quarry have said they fear for their safety due to some aggressive lorry drivers pushing them off Cheddar’s narrow village roads.

Batts Combe Traffic Watch said pupils walked that route to and from school and it knew of one who had leaped over a wall to avoid injury from an HGV.

Hanson Aggregates said it was a problem with a minority of drivers not directly employed by the firm.

Somerset County Council said it had brought in safety measures to help.

These include introducing a 20mph speed limit along the route which at its height a year ago recorded some 400 lorry movements per day, associated with the construction of Hinkley Point C.

Helen Harrington lives near Batts Combe quarry and said: “We use this route to take our children to school.

“The 2.8m [wide] road is our footway and we share it with these HGVs every day – and they’re not giving way.”

Dr Harrington said she was recently in a “stand-off” with a lorry driver from the quarry on the outskirts of Cheddar.

“The HGV didn’t stop for me, he kept edging towards me, so I just thought: ‘I’m not moving, I’ve got right of way.’

“So I stood still, he stood still. I sat in the road in the end. I thought: ‘I’m not moving’.

“He chose to bully me by edging forwards so that I would have to retrace my steps back to where I could go to a passing place. As a pedestrian against a 44-tonne truck, it really is nerve-wracking.”

Hanson Aggregates said it had since received a letter of apology from the “experienced” driver who works for one of its customers.

At some points on the route, along Venns Gate and Warrens Hill, two trucks have to pass each other in opposite directions and there is no pavement for pedestrians.

Image source, Batts Combe Traffic Watch (BCTW)

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Much of the route to the quarry is one-way for HGVs but there are some two-way sections

Batts Combe Traffic Watch has been calling for changes to the route the lorries take.

But Hanson Aggregates said driving north from the quarry and away from the homes was not an option due to the steep gradient and it being in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

“It’s not our road, we can’t just make changes,” said Mike Brown, Hanson Aggregates South West Area Operations Manager.

He said the firm was “in discussions with a third party and with [Somerset County Council] Highways” on whether a footpath could be installed on one of the narrowest sections of the route, but warned it was a slow process.

Dr Harrington said action was needed now as she knew of a pupil recently who had jumped over a wall to get out of the way of a lorry, on their way home from school.

Image source, BCTW

Image caption,

Hanson Aggregates said the location of the quarry meant drivers had to go through the village as there was no suitable alternative route to reach it

Hanson said as well as directly-employed drivers who work for the quarry company, customers and their sub-contractors also sent lorries to the site.

The firm said it was aware of complaints about a small number of drivers but none had been directly employed by Hanson Aggregates.

“Every haulier, irrespective of their background, is inducted by site; so the route is clarified, the expectations of our behaviour…[our] golden rules,” said Mr Brown.

“We do take every action we possibly can to make sure the communication, the behaviour, the training is positive and that we get the message across.

“In those cases where they are extreme, we will ban people from site.”

He said the firm had banned about four or five drivers in 2022 and held regular workshops with their staff and customers to refresh drivers’ guidelines.

Somerset County Council said it had carried out a “significant number of improvements” on the route taken by HGVs in the past year, including introducing a new 20mph speed limit, installing new signs warning of pedestrians in the section of the road where there was no footway, and had engaged in “extensive” discussions with Hanson Aggregates.

“Enforcement of the weight and speed limits is a matter for Avon and Somerset Police and we have liaised with them on a regular basis.

“We would urge residents to report any concerns they have about breaches they have witnessed to police,” a council spokesperson added.

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