Probe demanded into collisions on the A142 near Mepal where two have died and three other collisions occurred
- Credit: Archant
Lorries travelling to a new anaerobic digester plant near the Mepal Outdoor Centre have created a highway hazard by dropping mud and maize onto the roads, according to local politicians.
The claim comes after five accidents, two of them fatal, happened on the A142 between Chatteris and Mepal in the space of just a few weeks.
Cambridgeshire County Council and police deny it is causing a problem but Chatteris town councillors, a county councillor and MP Steve Barclay have all urged action to be taken to keep the road safe.
The plant is run by Pretoria Energy, turns maize into bio methane gas for the national grid.
Chatteris county councillor Sandra Rylance was so concerned about maize blowing from the top of some overloaded, uncovered trailers that she made a video of it as she followed in her car.
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She said: “In dry weather it’s not a problem. - but when it rains the maize creates a slippery film over the surface of the road.
“In addition there is extra mud that drops off the tractors and trailers going to the plant.
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“It’s like banging your head against a brick wall trying to get somebody to listen to us about the dangers to motorists.
“Maize trailers should not be loaded so high or should be covered up to prevent this problem.
“Another danger is convoys of four tractors at a time going to the anaerobic digester from both directions. What this does is create impatient drivers who then overtake.
“We worried about road hazards which is why Chatteris town councillors objected to the anaerobic digester when it came up for planning.”
Planning permission for the anaerobic digester was granted by Fenland District Council in the summer.
Mr Barclay said: “I share concerns at the number of accidents on the A142. Clearly when five accidents, two of which have been fatal, occur within three weeks then that must focus minds in term of understanding if there are any factors increasing the risk over and above coincidence.”
He has contacted the NFU about encouraging best practice from farmers and contractors to wash down tractor wheels after coming off muddy fields and has urged Cambridgeshire Police to have more patrols in that area as a priority.
He has been in contact with Fenland District Council and Cambridgeshire County Council to urge them to take enforcement action on any firm that is breaching planning conditions in any way that is detrimental to road conditions.
Joanna Melton, clerk to Chatteris Town Council, said: “We’ve had complaints from residents about mud and maize. The state of the road is a serious hazard. “
A Cambridgeshire Police spokesman said; “We’re urging motorists to drive to the conditions of the road.
“There have been fatal collisions on the A142 at Mepal on November 7 and then Sunday November 30.
“Initial inquiries suggest mud reported to be on the road in the area was not the cause of either crash.
“Any concerns about the road surface should be reported to the Highways Agency.”
A spokesman for Cambridgeshire County Council said it was a criminal offence to drop anything on the roads that caused a danger to drivers.
A letter from Alexander Woolnough in the county council highways department to Cllr Rylance said the recent spate of accidents was likely to be due to the winter sun being lower in the sky, nights getting darker earlier and fog, rain and frosts.
He said: “I understand why people are quick to attribute any spate of accidents down to a new development especially one that saw the level of opposition the Mepal aerobic digesting plant received.
“I haven’t once received any call from the police asking for us to step in because of dangerous level of mud on the A142 nor have I been made aware that any accidents are attributable to mud.
“I have driven past the Mepal Outdoor Centre on a number of occasions over the last few weeks and seen road sweepers out cleaning the A142 between the Frimstones access and the Block Fen roundabout.
“Unfortunately I am unable to approach the developer and ask them to put in place further mud mitigation measures when the current consensus amongst the professionals I have discussed this matter with all agreed the developers current measures appear to be working.
“If you are able to provide evidence to the contrary or the police are able to provide accident data that would suggest that mud associated with the maize harvest and the plant development has been a primary, secondary or indeed played any part in the accidents I will then have the proverbial stick I need to make the developer employ more stringent robust mud mitigation measures.”