Are hi-tech systems on wrong road?

WHEN is a road not a road?The answer, according to villagers in Essex, is when it appears on hi-tech satellite navigation.But for the residents of Birch Green near Colchester, the issue of lorries and emergency service vehicles being told a thin dirt track is actually a through-road is no laughing matter.

WHEN is a road not a road?

The answer, according to villagers in Essex, is when it appears on hi-tech satellite navigation.

But for the residents of Birch Green near Colchester, the issue of lorries and emergency service vehicles being told a thin dirt track is actually a through-road is no laughing matter.

Caper Lane is a privately owned track which small cars struggle to traverse, never mind lorries, vans or trucks.


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In the 1800s, the lane was a key road into Birch. But horse and cart has given way to articulated lorries, and use of the lane has been largely confined to tractors and anglers fishing in the nearby lake.

But since autumn increasing numbers of lorries - including furniture-laden trucks, skip-carrying lorries and even an ambulance - have been sent down the lane by their satellite navigation units.

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On each occasion they have either had to turn around on the 6ft wide mud track or reverse all the way back into adjoining Mill Lane.

Mill Lane homeowner John Whitmore has lived in his house for more than 40 years and claimed the problems only began last autumn.

He said: “There have been lorries ending up down that lane and they either have to try and turn around, which is nearly impossible, or back up all the way back.”

Mr Whitmore said residents in the area wanted two separate signs warning lorry drivers and others that the road was little more than a mud track.

He said it was especially worrying if ambulances or other emergency service vehicles were sent down the non-existent through-route, adding: “That is when lives are stake.”

Colchester Borough Council has agreed to install a sign to warn lorry drivers and other road users that Caper Lane is not a through-route.

Another resident, who did not wish to be named, said she was concerned about a ditch that runs adjacent to her property.

Wide vehicles trundling down Caper Lane were gradually destroying the ditch that carried away excess rainwater, she claimed.

If the ditch caved in, her property could end up flooded, she said.

A spokesman for Essex Ambulance Service yesterday said: “In the vast majority of cases, it will be local crews who know the area in great detail. The chances of these types of events happening are very slim.”

n Global navigation satellites continuously transmit time and distance information as they orbit the earth.

n Every point on Earth is identified by two sets of numbers called coordinates.

n These coordinates represent the exact point where a horizontal line (latitude) crosses a vertical line (longitude).

n The satellite receiver locks on to at least three satellites and uses this information to determine the co-ordinates of the device.

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