Mirror plea fails on legal liability fears
Wylye Valley residents have been left frustrated by Highways Agency officials, who said they could not replace a road mirror at a dangerous junction for fear of litigation.
On Thursday, senior Highways Agency managers attended the Warminster Area Board meeting to discuss safety at the A36/Manor Road junction at Upton Lovell, where they intend to impose a restriction preventing drivers exiting the village.
There were six serious accidents at or near the junction between July 2011 and June 2012, including three deaths; the last that of village resident Stanley “Rocky” Knight in June, just hours after the agency put up a new mirror.
Mr Knight’s daughter, Jenny, who was involved in a crash at the junction two years ago, was among those at the meeting calling for the mirror to be replaced.
“Like many people here, I have to deal with the real emotional and physical consequences of that junction,” she said.
“Rocky knew that junction like the back of his hand. Using it was so much easier with the old mirror. With the current small mirror, it is too dangerous.”
She pleaded: “Please do something before another family ends up in my position.”
Upton Lovell Parish Council chairman Jon Perrett read from a statement which echoed her views. He said: “We know a long-term solution is required to make it safe.
“Between now and then, we want a mirror like the old one, which served the village well.”
However, regional planning manager Andrew Page-Dove said the agency could not replace the mirror – which gives scarcely two seconds of warning of on-coming traffic – for fear of being found liable should an accident occur.
Upton Lovell residents were joined by farmers and business owners at Warminster Civic Centre meeting, in opposing a proposed “experimental traffic order” to prevent traffic exiting, and possibly entering, the village.
They argued that the back route out of the village was itself a dangerous road, un-gritted in the winter, and that it was soon to be closed while bridge strengthening work was carried out by Network Rail, potentially leaving the village isolated.
Councillor Perrett said: “This is not what we want. We want an appropriate mirror which is fit for purpose.
“Rather than fix the mistake made with the replacement, you want to isolate the village from the community.”
When board chairman Andrew Davies asked if temporary traffic lights had been considered as an alternative to the order, Mr Page-Dove admitted that they had not.
He said no decision had been made on any short or long-term solution to problems at the junction and on the A36 in general.
He added that the agency would prefer to have Wiltshire Council’s support if it were to impose the traffic order, but could go ahead alone if it was deemed necessary.
Yesterday, a Highways Agency spokesman said the body was still considering feedback from the area board meeting.
A full inquest on Mr Knight is expected to take place in January.
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