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‘Dangerous And Scary’ Pavements In Guildford Draw Widespread Criticism

Published on: 23 Sep, 2019
Updated on: 23 Sep, 2019

By Hugh Coakley

During an inspection tour, Guildford’s town centre pavements have been branded “badly maintained, dangerous and scary” by the Guildford Access Group (GAG), the voluntary body dedicated to improving community access. Passers-by added comments including “grim”, “awful” and “appalling”.

After sustained pressure from The Guildford Dragon NEWS, councillors from Surrey County Council (SCC) and Guildford Borough Council (GBC) have agreed the pavement inspection regime must improve.

Is Guildford to expect more of this unsightly mess? The Dragon counted at least 22 rocking or moving slabs and four trip hazards in this area alone. Click on the images to enlarge them in a new window.

A common complaint voiced was about money wasted on poor workmanship.

A town centre survey by The Dragon earlier this month revealed at least 124 moving or unstable paving slabs and a further 50 trip hazards where there was a step of about 20mm or more in the pavement. And Guildford compares badly to comparable towns such as Dorking and Winchester where the pavements are in far better condition.

In a town walkabout on Wednesday, September 18, The Dragon showed Cllr Angela Goodwin (Lib Dem, SCC and GBC), Cllr Mark Brett-Warburton (Con, SCC) and Cllr John Redpath (R4GV, GBC) examples of pavement repairs lasting only weeks, new slabs cracking within months of being laid and “repaired” slabs still rocking dangerously.

This slab is still rocking although it has been recently lifted, presumably for repair, and replaced. Match up the orange marks.

A new tactile slab cracked outside Greggs. The adjacent slabs are OK, so why has the new slab cracked? Poor workmanship?

A new manhole and four new slabs installed within the past four months in Market Street. But the manhole rocks when stood on and three of the four slabs are already cracked. Is this an acceptable level of workmanship?

A bodged repair to a cracked slab at the top of North Street.

Some problems are caused by heavy vehicles mounting the pavement, many more are the result of poor workmanship and failures around utility company manholes.

This has a real effect on people’s lives. All of the people who spoke to The Dragon had witnessed falls. Former Mayor of Guildford, Diana Lockyer-Nibbs, from GAG, actually tripped over a small step between pavement slabs during the walkabout but, fortunately, was not hurt.

But a 75-year-old Dragon reader contacted us about a fall she said she suffered in September 2018 and still causes her constant pain from a leg injury. To date, SCC have not accepted her accident claim, although a temporary but short-lived repair of the blamed paving was done in May 2019.  SCC has agreed to a more permanent solution after pressure from The Dragon.

Tread carefully around the rocking slabs (marked with a chalk cross). There are at least 20 rocking slabs in this part of the High Street although it was laid only 10 years ago.

Loose slabs in the High Street. This one nearly lifts out of the ground when trodden on.

The day after the inspection tour, September 19, it is marked for urgent repair. But why were such obvious defects not picked up in the monthly inspection by the SCC Highways contractor?

Appearance is also an issue in a town which encourages tourism as an important part of its future. The SCC policy of replacing broken slabs with Tarmac has led to a messy and piecemeal appearance in the town which many consider unsightly.

A combination of cracked and broken slabs with irregular patches of tarmac and empty shops looks a mess in the otherwise attractive Friary Street area.

Tarmac repair to the expensive setts in the High Street. The repair, to what looks like a water meter, has been there for more than a year.

Replacement setts outside of Clarks shoeshop in the High Street not matching the originals – photo sent by one of our readers.

Gemma Roulston, of GAG, said: “The pavements in Guildford are badly maintained, dangerous and scary. Even though we went round with Surrey County Council in March, nothing has happened. The problem is lack of funds, SCC have only about £60k to spend on all pavements and roads in Surrey. Whoever is putting the slabs back from the private companies isn’t doing a good job.”

Ms Lockyer-Nibbs,  former GBC councillor and Mayor of Guildford, co-chair of GAG, added: “Not very good at all. Lots of loose slabs. It is particularly difficult where the lighting is poor, for instance, outside the Royal Grammar School.”

Sue Zirps, chief executive of Age UK Surrey, said: “Unsafe pavements make falls more likely. An age- unfriendly town means people are discouraged from going out. We would like to see Guildford town centre become age-friendly and one of the ways this can be achieved is by ensuring there are no pavement trip hazards.”

There are several areas in North Street where the tactile paving has been replaced with Tarmac. This was thought by the councillors and the highways officer to be a safety issue.

Cllr Angela Goodwin.

Cllr Goodwin said: “My focus during our walk-around earlier this week was on accessibility. Safety ‘hot-spots’ were identified and Surrey Highways will work on these as soon as possible.

“But it won’t stop there. I’ll keep working with Surrey Highways and GBC to improve accessibility around the town.”

Cllr Brett-Warburton said: “I have always argued that the town centre needs particular attention. But budget constraints don’t make this easy. SCC officers have to apply a balanced judgement to ensure all areas have a fair amount of the small maintenance budget.

Cllr Mark Brett-Warburton.

“It is disappointing when we find badly implemented repairs, although the contractor has to redo a repair at their own cost if they fail. I think SCC can learn from the walk around with The Dragon. As a result, we will review our regime for checking completed work to see how this can be improved to ensure the quality of workmanship we want is delivered.”

Cllr John Redpath.

Cllr Redpath said: “The condition of the pavements in certain parts of Guildford are a poor reflection on the town. But they are also evidence of a very busy town.

“There is also certainly evidence of poor workmanship. Maybe there should be an inspector following the repair team around? I do feel that in many cases the county council would benefit from employing someone to chase up the utility companies who so often make the shoddy repairs, often in Tarmac, that is then left in perpetuity!”

Controversially, Mr Redpath added: “I really do wonder whether we should be looking at using more Tarmac and less pavers?”

County Cllr Matt Furniss (Con, Shalford), SCC Cabinet Member for Highways Decisions, was invited to comment but did not respond.

See also: “Pavement survey in town centre reveals patchwork performance” from February 2019 and “Watch your step in Guildford, SCC say they can’t afford proper pavement repairs” from April 2019).

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Responses to ‘Dangerous And Scary’ Pavements In Guildford Draw Widespread Criticism

  1. K White Reply

    September 24, 2019 at 12:23 am

    Why are paving slabs used at all? They inevitably become uneven and broken over time and it is evident that contractors make little effort to replace what they’ve removed or like for like. Using smooth tarmac would seem to be preferable.

    Also, how is it setts that were removed are allowed to be replaced by different ones, given that the whole High Street was refurbished using mostly original setts. Somebody should be checking quality of workmanship.

  2. Rob Hall Reply

    September 24, 2019 at 3:49 pm

    K White is absolutely right concerning the setts. The original announcement from GBC advised there would be a “code of conduct” for any repairs and all repairs should re-use original/matching setts. This code was not followed from the start sadly and now there are multiple examples of it being ignored. Perhaps The Dragon would have a greater chance of receiving a straight reply from GBC?

    It looked so great when first restored, now sadly without control, it will quietly be destroyed a few setts at a time.

    • Peter W Smith Reply

      September 26, 2019 at 6:25 am

      Regarding the missing setts in the High Street, I have on numerous occasions written to local and county councillors
      about the substandard repairs.

      Their response was that Thames Water, responsible for these works, have agreed to pay for the correct reinstatement, so SCC funds are not an issue here.

      However, the work has still not been done.

  3. David Wragg Reply

    September 25, 2019 at 8:24 am

    It is not just the town centre. The pavement on the east side of London Road between the Boxgrove roundabout and the Anchor & Horseshoes is terrible.

  4. Jim Allen Reply

    September 26, 2019 at 9:41 am

    I think you will find across the borough more serious problems of subsidence and manhole collapse. On Southway there are over five manholes which have been hammered by buses as they drop off the speed control ramps, Larch Avenue is suffering similar problems, the new surface along the length of Clay Lane and London Road has signs of subsidence and drains well below the road surface.

    A root and branch highways infrastructure survey, to include pavements, across the whole borough to bring it up to standard is what should be ordered. And it should be completed, and acted upon, before starting on the upgrades promised before the 14-17,000 new homes are built.

  5. Gordon Bridger Reply

    October 3, 2019 at 10:27 am

    Cllr Furniss represents us on these matters and surely the relatively small sums required should be within his responsibility to secure? If not, why does he hold his SCC Cabinet position?

    Gordon Bridger is a hon alderman and former Mayor of Guildford.

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