Councillor Bentley’s (Essex County Council cabinet member for highways) plan to increase and speed up HGVs through Essex needs to be challenged.

An alternative vision would focus on sustainably developing our rural economy for its residents, founded on what we have now (but is not valued enough) in the leisure, hospitality and tourism sectors, boosting small business (the engine of employment) and giving our rural communities recognition and real protection by being at the heart of our economic strategic thinking.

I believe we need three steps in that vision:
1) Develop and implement Essex Strategic Lorry Routes (ESLR).
2) Develop and implement Strategic Tourist Routes (STR).
3). Ensure that A12 to A131/A120 minimises greenfield land.

Our rural villages get no economic dividend from increased and faster HGV traffic that clog up our roads and leads to damage of verges. Designating non-HGV routes as strategically significant for tourism will give focus and enable funding for improved road surfaces and links to byways, bridleways and footpaths for a range of leisure users.

I suggest the Braintree District Local Plan process is used to avoid repeating the Horizon A120-type warehouse developments that attract HGVs and car-dependent housing sprawl.

Isn’t it time the sustainable economic development of our rural communities was considered at the heart of our place-shaping and not just funding roads for more and faster HGVs? The concept of social value is fundamental to the emerging health and wellbeing agenda – joined up solutions with more local procurement thereby encouraging more local jobs, less commuting and improved sustainability.

Councillor Bentley suggests that weather conditions cause road damage and while I have a level of agreement with that I also witness, in the division that I represent, the increase in HGVs using our local road network. 

Recently I attended the Halstead Strategic Lorry Route Partnership meeting, where Essex County Council agreed to look at options to divert unnecessary HGVs away from Halstead. I appreciate this is a start but an ‘alternative vision’ would cost a fraction of the £2.2bn roads program, protect and enhance our local roads and boost our local economy.

Jo Beavis
County Councillor for the Halstead Division
n The other candidates for the Halstead Division are Christopher Siddall (Con), Garry Warren (Lab) and Andrew Waugh (Lib Dem)