Sometimes you come across a really ridiculous situation that is obviously an unintended consequence of either good intentions, or what some might call, the jobs worth syndrome.
This one, I spotted on my way back from Peterborough today, might also fall under that infamous term, ‘elf and safety’. Driving through Deeping St Nicholas, my wife and I were delayed by a set of temporary traffic lights. These lights were protecting yet another ‘ol in the road’, or more accurately, a hole in the footpath. This hole, bereft of a single workman, as is often the case, prevented any pedestrian from passing along the footpath, requiring them to take to roadway itself.
The road through DSN is always very busy, despite the recently opened new A16 to Peterborough. It would therefore be extremely dangerous for pedestrians to walk in the road, so the traffic lights and their associated road barriers are in place to give pedestrians safe passage on the roadway – and here comes the ridiculous bit.
As you approach the site there are warning signs, informing drivers of the partial road blockage and the traffic lights. In order to keep them out of the traffic flow, these signs are on the footpath and are so large, there is no room for anybody to get past them, without walking in the road! So, we have a set of lights and barriers placed in the road to allow pedestrians to walk in the road safely, because there’s a hole in the footpath. Meanwhile, some 5 and 10 metres to either side, we have a set of roadworks signs, placed on the same footpath, that force pedestrians to walk in the road to get past them! Like I said, ridiculous!
Just to prove my point,here are two more stories related to my last roadworks post. The first, is the previous government’s attempt. The second is just to prove what I said about the minister’s initial response.
1. 26 November, 2001 – A new approach to reducing the delays and disruptions caused by utility company road works was put forward in a consultation paper launched today.
Sarah Boyack, minister for transport and planning, launched ‘Reducing Disruption from Utilities’ Road Works – A Consultation Paper’ and invited comments on the proposals from local authorities, the utility companies and other interested parties.26 November, 2001.
2. Ministers reject call to give councils powers over utility companies
27 July, 2011 – Ministers have rejected proposals to give councils more powers to recoup the cost of repairs to roads damaged by work done on behalf of utility companies.
The Local Government Association had called for the government to make utility companies pay a bond or deposit in advance of roadworks to make it easier for councils to recoup the cost of damage – estimated at £70m in England and Wales last year – caused by inferior road repairs.
The LGA also called for councils to be given stronger powers to ensure roadworks are timed to cause the minimum disruption to motorists, and to guarantee roads are repaired properly once work has finished
But transport minister Norman Baker rejected the proposals. In a letter to the LGA he said that he “sympathised” with local authorities concerns about street works causing long-term damage, but said the proposal to take a bond from utility companies in order to recoup the cost of remediation was “inconsistent with the coalition government’s commitment to reduce regulatory costs on business.”
He said “a more pragmatic approach would be to reduce the extent of long-term damage costs through a greater focus on high-quality reinstatements.”
He added that giving councils more statutory powers would not be a “proportionate or workable solution that creates the right incentives for utility companies”.
“I consider that where a utility company’s highway reinstatement is substandard, local authorities currently do have adequate powers to require them to put things right,” he said.
As soon as any government dept announces a new bright idea, it’s always worth looking back through the archives to check to see if it’s all been said before. In this case a story from almost 10 years ago suggests that, as always, there’s nothing new in the world of politics.
November 2002 – A government initiative to reduce the number of holes-in-the-road has instead led to an increase in their number as utilities seek to get round regulations, according to a report commissioned by the Department of Transport, reported The Sunday Telegraph (p11).
The study – details of which have been leaked to the newspaper – showed that, in attempting to get around legislation meant to reduce ‘unnecessary disruption’, utility companies were digging several small holes rather than one large one. In some cases this was causing twice as much disruption as previously.
What makes this latest story even more ironic, is that it was only about 6 weeks ago that I read in the local government press, that the minister didn’t see a need for any more legislation, stating that councils already had sufficient powers to deal with this issue. I what what’s changed? Perhaps he was feeling neglected and needed to see his name in the national press again.
The County Council Highways Dept has agreed with the two developers that they would issue the necessary Orders themselves, rather that the highways dept, directly to the various Utility Companies (water, gas, electricity, telephone) for the works required to relocate or protect their underground services, mainly on Woolram Wygate.
The two developers delayed the issue of those Orders until they had their planning permissions in place, which was understandable, as any delay in gaining planning permission would probably have meant that any Orders that were already in place would of run out of their time limit. The successful outcome for the applications at the Development Control Committee meeting on 5 January 2011, means that both developers have now commenced arrangements for the issue of the Orders.
A programme period for the work required once the services are moved etc, has been produced, but the start point for this will depend on when the Utilities works are completed.
Initially, it was hoped that all the Utilities works would be finished before the 2011 Flower Parade, so that the remaining works could start soon after the Flower Parade. However, this may need to be revised, dependant upon the requirements and constraints of the Utility Companies and how the remaining work can be fed in to work schedule of the County council’s road works contractor.
Check out the Conservative group website for more news about Spalding Wygate ward http://southhollanddcconservativegroup.co.uk/3818/welcome