Operating Centres, Public Inquiries and the Traffic Commissioner
Let’s face it, few people like living next to an Operating Centre. Whether you run a single truck or a fleet of 200 lorries, you can expect resistance from local residents. Typical complaints include:
- Vehicle noise
- Road congestion
- Damage to verges
- Mud left on roads
- Entrance and exit safety
Though it may be tempting, ignoring these complaints is not an option!
Facing up to Environmental Challenges
If you want to use a piece of land as an Operating Centre, you must first apply to the Traffic Commissioner for permission.
You will also need to post an advert in the local paper telling people:
- Who you are
- What piece of land you want to use
- How many vehicles you want based there
- How a challenge against your application can be made to the Traffic Commissioner
Challenges can be made by nearby residents, the local and planning authorities, the police, and various trade bodies. There are strict rules governing whether a challenge is a valid or not.
If the Traffic Commissioner decides the challenges are valid, they will usually call a Public Inquiry to decide the matter. The DVSA might also carry out a site inspection.
Environmental Public Inquiry
At the Public Inquiry, the Traffic Commissioner will hear from any person who has lodged a valid challenge to your application, and occasionally to some who haven’t. You will then be given a chance to respond.
The Traffic Commissioner will want to ask you questions directly, and might want to know what reasonable adjustments you could make; however, the Traffic Commissioner can impose adjustments on you. Examples could include:
- Not to operate the lorries too early or too late, or at weekends
- To install hard standing
- To reduce the number of lorries operating
- Improving access to the site
Having heard from all parties, the Traffic Commissioner will make a decision.
What Can You Do?
So what is the worst that can happen? – Ultimately, the Traffic Commissioner has the power to:
- allow the application
- reduce the number of vehicles that may be operated
- require the Operator to sign up to Undertakings or put conditions on the use of the site
- reject the application altogether
Because of this, many operators choose to be represented by a transport lawyer at this hearing. The rules governing environmental challenges are lengthy and complex. With advance notice there is much that can be done to prepare and strengthen an application before the hearing even starts. Call Smith Bowyer Clarke now for a free initial consultation and find out how we can help.