Highways, January Council Meeting

Question to Councillor Mary Evans from Councillor Field

I wonder if you could explain what effective actions are being taken to ensure that communities do not suffer endless disruption from utility and developer works that proceed at glacial pace or the even more problematic coincidences of several sets of work that gridlock a community.

Response from Councillor Mary Evans

Thank you very much for that. I have seen the emails coming from your residents and I feel their pain. As I spoke earlier today about the Highways, Innovations and Improvements Board, the way Network Assurance manages road closures is within my gaze. I think it is incredibly difficult, I think the utilities will move on to a site and there is nobody around. In the first two weeks of my appointment as Cabinet Member, I drove through a road closed sign confidently everyday to come on the back road to Bury St Edmunds, there was never anybody there despite the signs telling me to turn around. I will take this forward, I am very serious about this, it is very, very difficult, we have an issue in the way the utilities sometimes close the roads, we have an issue with the way they manage traffic and we have an issue about the communications and I will follow it up.

Supplementary Question from John Field

Can I say thank you for the efforts you have made, I do appreciate that and I do totally understand the difficulty officers have, but I just wanted to ask a little more, which is really to say the glacial pace is often due to intermittent working ie. people on site 2 days a week, not 5, 6, 7 days a week and to short working. Workman appear at 9 o’clock in the morning and at 3 o’clock they are gone. That is quite understandable in many circumstances but where it is really critical, this is a thing that impacts the community, the economy, the local businesses and we have all had those sort of things, one would have thought that extended working perhaps 8 in the morning until 8 in the evening particularly when it is warm and sunny could be introduced. Would you undertake to try and push the utilities in to the sort of attitude where it is necessary?

Response from Councillor Mary Evans

I know we have had roadworks where it is our own staff where they have been starting in this really hot weather at 6 in the morning, so they can get the full work done. Absolutely, with the utilities I do understand, I was talked through this particular roadworks what was happening. I went through every day, it was BT putting in Broadband, so there was somebody to come and dig a trench and they went away. They had dug the trench quicker than anybody had thought so it was another couple of days before someone came to put some ducting in and they went away. Then somebody else came out and put the base on for the cabinet and they went away because they were all different trades people. Then somebody came to install the cabinet and then they went away. We are now waiting for UK Power Networks to connect and who knows when that will be. It is very difficult, but these days in the way of contracted working it is very rarely one organisation is doing the lot, so they book their space. The only thing I would say, and I mentioned it to Councillor Vickery in my comments on the remembrance of the First World War, we all know that for the armistice day parades you can get the road closed for free – Networks Assurance will not charge you for closing the road for a Remembrance Day Parade nor will we charge you as an authority for the traffic management that is because we fund that out of the money we make from the utilities and their misbehaviour on our roads.

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