Horndean has been suffering from on and off roadworks since September last year which are set to run on until May this year. These have been the subject of previous blog entries where they have been poorly managed, and much effort has been put into pressuring Hampshire County Council over this, but so far to little avail.
Neither Parish nor District Council have control over the roadworks. This is Hampshire County Council who receive 72% of our Council tax, and are currently represented by an ineffective and invisible County Councillor. It is so important that in these coming elections we elect a candidate who will take up issues like this on our behalf.
The 5 Horndean the District Councillors as active members in the community are often the first port of call for any issue, regardless of which authority it is the responsibility of. Indeed most residents are not interested if it is another authorities problem because we are also here to liaise with the other Councils, and why not. That would be joined up thinking, but it seems that not every organisation is willing to cooperate and help with this at times.
Gas Pipe Works.
The gas pipe works late last year were the first major issue for Horndean. First off, I am certain that everyone would accept that the replacement of a collapsed gas pipe has to be carried out, and that it would cause some disruption, but would expect this to be minimised. SGN originally applied for a 12 week permit to close the road with 4 way lights for most of this period. Hampshire County Councils engineers rightly responded that this was too long, and SGN would need to apply for a shorter permit. A 6 week closure was then agreed.
The fundamental problem with working to this shorter closure was that SGN only put one roadworks gang on the job with one digger and worked (with little exception) during the working week only, and no effort was made to speed up the works. Unsurprisingly, they over ran and took just over 10 weeks. there was no point then in agreeing a shorter permit as no effort was made to work within it.
We said can you put more than one gang on the job. This would double the speed and halve the time. They said no as there was too little working space, and of course, safety reasons. (You may recall vast areas coned off at the same time and should form your own view).
We said can you work weekends to minimise the delay (10 weekends = 20 days = 3 weeks shorter) they said no, there was not enough resource to prioritise this with the only gangs willing to work weekends prioritised for emergency works. (The workforce carrying out the works advised us that SGN had an overtime ban to save money, and would otherwise be happy to work).
We asked if traffic from Blendworth lane could be a temporary left turn only to cut the lights from 4 way to 3 way and thus cutting out 1 phase and 75% of the period when all lights were red while traffic cleared the road. They said no, because of the fire station. Timing the amount of time the lights on Blendworth Lane went green it was only 10% of the time. Clearly this response is nonsense as the fire engine would be 90% likely to have to pass red lights to get out anyway.
We asked if the roadworks could be taken down for some weekends if areas could be reinstated in time to give some breaks at least. This happened once.
I work in Construction for my day job and these roadworks were carried out in the cheapest most convenient manner for SGN possible with no regard for our community, nor support from Hampshire County Council in minimising impact. Emails to the current County Councillor and formal requests from East Hampshire District Council Community Forum on this still remain unanswered.
At the end of the roadworks, and following enormous pressure on Hampshire County Council to get these completed in time for the remembrance day parade, Hampshire County Council assured us that:
1 – They would give us 2 weeks notice before any further roadworks so we could inform residents.
2 – They would consider making Blendworth lane a Left turn only.
3 – They would inform us 2 weeks before night works began.
4 – They would work with the contractor to ensure that 4 way lights would be minimised on the scheme.
5 – They would meet with us to discuss the works and help to inform the community at large.
Damaged Electricity Cable.
The first week back after Christmas the roadworks again popped up with no warning and 4 way lights were in place for 2 weeks to replace a power cable which was damaged during the gas works. We were told that ‘it was too short notice to warn us’ but the works were able to be booked in by a contractor, and agreed through County Council.
2 weeks ago we again saw the introduction of 4 way lights in the village. The promises from Hampshire County Council to speak to us before hand and organise a meeting turned out to be worthless as no such notification took place. We were also assured we would be warned of the night works prior to these starting and again, this did not happen. Angry residents on Tuesday night caused sufficient disruption to the contractor to result in the night works being suspended early, and I have every sympathy for the residents as I have little doubt they were treated with little consideration by Hampshire County Council too.
This is so frustrating and usually the councillors and staff of partner Councils work together to support each other, stick up for each other (were appropriate) and help provide a consistent and positive message to the community. It is very unusual for a Councilor to write text like this which thoroughly condemns the performance of another organisation.
The rejuvenation of the Gales Site into a new village centre is so important to our community, and all of us see this as a very positive step. We know the road is to be realigned and re-surfaced and expect there to be some disruption, and can tolerate this if it is carried out considerately. The desperately slow gas pipe works caused unnecessary frustration to us all, and now that Linden Homes have to carry out their works, patience and tolerance is wearing thin.
In the last few days we have been able to get the following out of Hampshire County, who apologise for not making contact prior to the start of the works as had been promised.
1 – There will be a meeting on site on Wednesday 27th to discuss the issues. If you have any messages for me to pass on then please email me on email@example.com and I will be pleased to do so.
2 – We have a 4 day Easter bank holiday weekend coming up. We have asked if the roadworks can reach a natural conclusion and be removed over the weekend to give 4 days respite and avoid unnecessary delays.
3 – The 4 way lights are currently planned to run to the 22nd April, or a further 4 weeks at which point they will return to 2 way lights until the scheme is completed on the 6th May.
4 – The number of potholes and debris on the road has been raised several times and the current road condition is appaling. These will be filled in on Sunday 24th during the night. If you have suffered damage then the link to register a claim is here: http://www3.hants.gov.uk/roads/potholes/potholes-vehicle-damage/highway-incident-claims.htm
I will post an update following the meeting on Wednesday, and if you have any message for me to pass on to the Highways Engineers please let me know on firstname.lastname@example.org