Rail NOT Road
How a successful campaign will support the objectives of FOUR:
HGV's create noise, dust, vibration and are intimidating to other road users (including cyclists and pedestrians) when travelling along the narrow roads and streets of Settle & Upper Ribblesdale. The presence of so many HGVs is totally at odds with the National Yorkshire Dales National Park of creating a 'special place; a place of natural beauty and diversity, a place of grandeur, a place of tranquility and solitude, a place to be refreshed and invigorated, and a place to enjoy the challenges of the hills'.
FOUR Objective: to improve the quality of life of people who live in Upper Ribblesdale.
HGVs create noise, dust and vibration and are unpleasant for people who live and work close to the roads on which the HGVs travel. Transferring freight from Road to rail will reduce the number of HGVs on the roads and there will be a corresponding improvement in the quality of life for local residents. Fewer HGVs travelling through Settle will make the town a more attractive visitor destination which in turn will make it more sustainable and supportive of a wide range of shops and services for local residents. Ensuring that HGVs travel on the route of least impact will, by definition, improve the the quality of life for the maximum number of people.
A typical day on Settle's Duke Street (the lorries - not the rain!)
Narrow roads, narrow pavements, pedestrians, a conservation area ..... and a constant stream of HGVs.
How can a situation that is so damaging to our local economy be allowed to persist?
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Why the Quarry HGVs are bad news for the future of Settle & Upper Ribblesdale
by Steve Amphlett
published in Settle & District Community News December 2012
The large number of HGVs travelling through the centre of Settle has been a contentious issue for many years. Regrettably, but perhaps inevitably, views have become polarised and driven by emotion rather than a dispassionate assessment of facts and evidence that leads to a determination to find an equitable solution to the problem.
The Friends of Upper Ribblesdale (FOUR) have recently been formed to campaign for, amongst other things, a reduction in the number of HGVs travelling through Upper Ribblesdale and Settle Town Centre. FOUR believes that the vast majority of aggregate from the Upper Ribblesdale quarries should be transported by rail NOT road. We also believe that aggregate that has to be transported by road should be routed in a way which minimises the economic impact on Settle. We are committed to working with the quarry companies, the Planning Authorities and the Highways Authorities in order to find the best way forward.
Before putting the case for why we believe that Settle would have a much more vibrant and sustainable future if fewer HGVs travelled through the town centre, let’s first of all dispel some of the myths that surround this issue and which seem to have become an accepted truth in the minds of many people.
The most often repeated myth is that those who are seeking a reduction in the number of HGVs travelling through the town centre wish for the quarries to be closed with a resultant loss of local jobs. This is not the case, and would be a futile position even if it were as permissions for the Horton Quarry are valid until 2042!
A second myth is that any re-routing of HGV’s around Settle Town Centre would result in a loss of jobs for local HGV drivers. This is not the case. The re-routing of HGV’s away from the Town Centre would have no impact on the number of HGVs needed to service the quarries and so no jobs would be lost.
A further myth is that re-routing the HGVs would increase the operating costs of the local drivers. Whilst it is true that any extra distance of an alternative route would incur additional costs, these costs would be borne by the Quarry Companies (combined 2011 operating profits of £7.8billion) who in turn would pass them on to their customers. HGV drivers would not be financially disadvantaged.
Yet another myth is that the quarries employ many local HGV drivers. In reality, less than 15% of HGVs servicing the quarries are owned or driven by local people. The vast majority are owned by companies from much further afield (take a look at the addresses on the HGVs next time you walk along Duke Street!). Even if the vast majority of aggregate was transported by rail rather than road, there would still be more than enough work for local hauliers.
Let us now explain why we believe that it is so vital for the future of Settle that the number of HGVs travelling through the town centre be reduced.
Settle has been the main market town and service centre of Upper Ribblesdale for many years – the Market Charter was first granted over 750 years ago. Settle Town Centre is the place where people from up and down Ribblesdale come to do their shopping, conduct their business, to socialise with friends and to be entertained. Settle town centre is very precious - it is the very heart of our community. It defines our town and is hugely valued by most of us who are lucky enough to live in the area. Of all the many assets of our local area it is undoubtedly the one that would be most missed if it was allowed to decline. The thought of lots of vacant shops, empty business premises and neglected amenities doesn’t bear thinking about!
In common with many market towns up and down the country, the vibrancy and sustainability of our town centre cannot be taken for granted. People’s habits and expectations are changing and if our town centre doesn’t respond to these changes then decline is inevitable.
The Internet and readily accessible retail parks in nearby towns all provide alternative means for local people to purchase goods and access services. This has already resulted in the loss of certain types of businesses (Travel Agent!), reduced opening hours of other businesses (Banks!) and huge competitive pressure on the remaining shops and businesses. It is a fact that the majority of Settle’s shops can no longer rely on ‘local’ customers to make their businesses viable. Many retail businesses are struggling to make a reasonable return for the hours of hard work invested by their owners. Potential customers have to be attracted in greater numbers from further afield or businesses will fail and shops will close.
The battle for customers is very intense with every town competing with every other town. If customers don’t like what they find when they visit a town then there are plenty of other more attractive places they can go and spend their money. (Skipton is a great example of a town that is actively ‘fighting’ for customers. There are restrictions on HGVs travelling down the High Street and many tens of thousands of pounds are being invested in promoting the town to attract those very precious visitors).
An independent Town Centre Survey was recently commissioned which asked people (locals and visitors) and shop owners what they thought were the most and least attractive aspects of Settle Town Centre. There were many positive aspects mentioned (e.g. the beautiful setting) and one great big negative – the HGVs travelling through the town centre. It is a fact that the HGVs are hugely disliked by many town centre users and it can reasonably be deduced that their presence greatly compromises the attractiveness of the town to potential visitors who are vital for our town centre’s sustainability.
We have yet to hear anyone make a serious case for the HGVs being a positive and attractive asset for our town centre!
Finding a solution to the problems created by Quarry traffic is one of the most pressing issues for Settle and Upper Ribblesdale. We mustn’t let proper debate be clouded by unfounded fears of local job losses.
The choice we have is either to live with the HGVs travelling through Settle and accept that they will inevitably contribute to the decline of our precious town centre, or we can say to the multi-national quarry companies, enough is enough and the small price they must pay (from their multi-million pound profits!) for operating in a National Park is that they should run their businesses in a way which minimises the impact they have on the people and businesses in Settle and Upper Ribblesdale.