Kettering villagers fear it's "a matter of time" before rat run drivers cause serious accident

Vehicles are using Warkton as a rat run and villagers have had enough

By Sam Wildman
Thursday, 9th July 2020, 7:00 am

Residents in a picturesque village near Kettering fear it will take a serious or fatal accident for new safety measures to be installed.

The Northants Telegraph met with 19 people who live in Warkton who raised concerns about speeding drivers and overweight lorries who are using the road through the village as a rat run.

They say there are "constant" near-misses, walking on the path is dangerous and vehicles fly past at speeds of more than 50mph despite the 30mph limit.

Villagers in Warkton say they've had enough of rat run drivers.

Jane Williams fears the day she will be at home and a vehicle will plough into her kitchen.

She said: "It's a free-for-all and they are using it as a motorway but these vehicles have nothing to come to Warkton for. There's no shops, no pub, we are just 30-odd houses and a church. It's so obvious it's a rat run."

Another villager, Peter Maddison, said the road is so dangerous he has to wave visitors out and thinks speed cameras should be installed.

He said: "It's expensive, but we don't want to have somebody killed to justify doing it."

Fellow Warkton resident Grahame Coe said: "There's too many lorries that are over 7.5 tonnes who are using it as a rat run. It's like speed alley along here and it's scary.

"It's only a matter of time before something serious happens."

Measures have been installed over the years to try and slow down traffic, with many cars coming zooming down the hill on their way into the village.

Warkton Parish Council has worked with Northamptonshire County Council and police in the past to tackle the issue. A community speedwatch scheme was looked into, but failed to materialise.

A chicane was brought in on the main street and traffic surveys have been carried out in previous years, with one in 2009 finding that more than one-in-three drivers were travelling at more than 30mph.

But residents say more needs to be done and have proposed a number of ideas to make the village safer.

They include replacing the 30mph sign with a sign that shows drivers their speed, introducing speed bumps, improving the signs for lorries and even taking out the chicane because some feel it causes more issues than it solves.

Villager Brian Stiff suffered wall damage after an incident involving a driver.

He said: "People need to be educated on how to drive through villages. Even better signs would help. There's simple things that could be done."

Edgar Zarins, who has lived in Warkton since 2004, said he almost witnessed a fatality when a vehicle tried to overtake a refuse collection lorry only to lock all four wheels to avoid a head-on crash, leaving a 40m long skidmark.

He's calling for the village to have its "fair share" of police speeding enforcement.

After the Northants Telegraph approached Northamptonshire Police for comment, officers went out to check drivers' speeds and said that of 77 vehicles that passed them in one morning shift none were speeding.

A police spokesman said: “Before a speed van is placed at any location in the county, Northamptonshire Police’s Safer Roads Team conduct a period of data collection to analyse the speed data in that area first, to ensure that any actions taken - including placing a speed van there, are proportionate.

“We are currently reviewing recent speed data collected from Warkton village in order to identify the scale of the issue and decide on a proportionate outcome. The initial findings from our data collection in this area indicate that the average speed detected through the village is 31mph.”

A Northamptonshire County Council spokesman said: “Past traffic data from Warkton (2009, 2013 and 2015) has consistently shown that although a very small number of vehicles may be exceeding the speed limit, the great majority are below the enforcement threshold. However, we are aware of concerns about a recent increase in speeding vehicles generally as the county comes out of lockdown and more vehicles return to the roads.

“We worked with the parish council in recent years to look at ways of addressing concerns about speeding traffic, including applying to the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner’s road safety fund for a small grant for a vehicle activated sign. Eventually they didn’t proceed with this, but this option remain available should they reconsider. Warkton could also consider the Community Speedwatch scheme, which Northamptonshire Police provide to help support communities who are concerned about traffic speeds.

“We would remind all drivers that they have an individual responsibility to be aware of the speed limit (which is properly signposted) and to drive with due consideration for other road users including pedestrians.”

Some residents living in the village, which is a conservation area, say the issue is having a detrimental impact on their lives.

Rachel and Andy Howard said the road has been attracting boy racers and Bill Rose said traffic issues had seen a rise in drivers being abusive and beeping their horns at all hours.

Paul Judge said: "People are walking their dogs and putting themselves at risk because of the speed at which people come through here. They have just got no respect."

One resident, who only wanted to be identified as Alexandra, keeps her cats indoors because of speeding drivers. Another, who only wanted to be identified as Helen, said lorries make her whole house shake and two reflectors had been smashed off outside her house.

Michelle Cullinane added: "There's an awful lot of traffic coming through here that does not need to come through here."

One couple who have lived in Warkton for 43 years, who only wanted to be identified as Andrea and Victor, said it's too dangerous for them to walk with their grandchildren and fear it will only get worse when thousands move into the nearby Hanwood Park development, with a bypass many years away.

Another resident, Joe, said: "Why does it have to take someone being killed for something to be done?"

Kettering MP Philip Hollobone urged residents to report lorries who are breaching plans by travelling through the village.

He said: "Prior to 2007, when I had the privilege to be the borough councillor for Warkton, I remember working with village residents to conduct an all day traffic count in the village. We recorded several thousand vehicles a day passing through the village and this led to the installation by NCC of the priority chokepoint in the middle of Warkton.

"Kettering Council has ensured that the terms of the planning permission for the East Kettering development includes the requirement for a new bypass – the Weekley Warkton avenue, at a presumed cost of about £40m, to tackle this issue, but the trigger doesn’t apply until the development gets to 2,750 houses, which is some years off.

"This has a prominent place in the infrastructure strategy for north Northants...this would be accompanied by a stopping up of Warkton Lane at some point north of the junction with Deeble Road, to cut off the rat running. In the meantime, any lorry traffic for the East Kettering development should not be using this route as such traffic is prohibited by the construction management plans in place and any breaches need to be reported straight away so that action can be taken.”

Cllr Victoria Perry, who represents the Ise ward on Northants County Council, added that she understood villagers' concerns and encouraged them to establish a speedwatch scheme, which she was happy to offer her services to help with.

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