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‘Residents Deserve Better’ Says County Councillor After No Notice Road Closure

Published on: 5 Jun, 2021
Updated on: 7 Jun, 2021

No notice road closure on Clay Lane

By Martin Giles

County councillor George Potter (Lib Dem, Guildford East) is going to meet with the management of the Streetworks Team at Surrey County Council’s Highways department to investigate how Clay Lane in Burpham was closed without notice or proper diversions yesterday.

The closure affected hundreds of motorists forcing them to take long badly signed diversions to get home or reach their destinations.

Cllr Potter said: “Residents deserve better than constant congestion caused by badly scheduled and poorly signposted roadworks.”

See: Letter: No Notice Given of Road Closure

The Dragon asked the recently elected county councillor about the incident…

1. What went wrong with the closure of Clay Lane, as far as you can tell?

Cllr George Potter

[Water suppliers] Affinity were given a permit to close Clay Lane for five days from June 3 to June 7. This in itself was highly questionable given that Affinity also had a permit to close roads in Send at the same time, meaning that one of the two viable diversion routes for Clay Lane couldn’t be used at all. The other diversion route, via the Stoke crossroads, has temporary traffic lights, so was already congested.

They were meant to put up advance warning signs of the closure and write to residents to warn them of the closure. They failed to do this. But, Surrey Highways also failed to verify that these conditions of the permit were met, even though the signage should have been very easy to check.

Additionally, although the works were listed in the weekly highways bulletin on SCC website, the road closure was described as being at Clay Lane in Jacobs Well, which gave the impression it would be at a place where it could easily be bypassed, instead of being at Burpham Court Farm where it would completely shut the road.

When the closure happened it came out of the blue to residents, with no warning signs provided until cars reached the closure itself. While a diversion route had been planned, the signs were confusing and unclear. Ambulances, police and buses, which all use Clay Lane, were unaware of the road closure.

When residents and I contacted Highways about the closure we were initially met with a lack of urgency and an unwillingness to do anything about it. I was told that the work had a permit, was long-scheduled and that any objections should have been made back in March. There was a reluctance to even do anything about the lack of warning signs before people got to the closure.

Around five hours after the issue was first reported, a Highways officer went down to speak to the workmen and asked them to either improve signage or to switch to a partial closure with traffic lights for the next day. Highways were told Affinity would be finishing the work the next day anyway, so the road was allowed to remain closed until then, but the workmen left the site by 4pm (despite having filled in the trench with soil) and left the road closed completely overnight.

Fundamentally, what went wrong was the failure of Affinity to provide advance warning or to put up proper signage on the day, the failure of Highways to ensure that Affinity were complying with their permit and in allowing the work to take place at the same time as other works on diversion routes, and generally the slowness of the response to the situation and the failure to grasp the disruption being caused.

2. Where do the responsibilities lie?

Affinity holds the primary responsibility for the way in which they conducted the works, but SCC Highways must shoulder responsibility for the way in which they scheduled the work and their slowness to effectively respond to the situation, including the original insistence that there wasn’t anything wrong with the road closure.

3. We have been sent a copy of a Facebook post (believed to have been subsequently removed) that claimed an official at Surrey County Council Highways said: “The road closure on Clay Lane was both illegal and done with incredible arrogance and disregard for the local community,” and that, “Surrey Highways are now looking at taking legal action against Affinity and will be looking to impose big fines”.

What do you make of that? The closure was legal, wasn’t it? It was the lack of warning and suitable diversions that was the problem.”

I find the Facebook statement deeply confusing. Surrey Highways gave Affinity a five-day permit for a road closure. Therefore the closure must have been legal, and this statement, if genuine, seems as if it might be trying to distract from the fact that Highways were responsible for allowing the works to go ahead in such a manner in the first place.

It also completely missed the point about the problems with the closure. Personally, I wish the robustness and urgency in the tone of this statement had been displayed on Thursday while the situation was happening, rather than only appearing when Affinity were finishing off the works anyway.

4. What are you as the county councillor for Guildford East going to do about the situation now?

I’m going to be asking to meet with the management of the Streetworks Team at Highways to figure out how this situation came to pass, and to discuss the wider pattern of problems with roadworks permits and permit enforcement we have seen in the wider area over the past two months.

But ultimately, given the wider pattern of repeated problems, I think I might have to ask some very serious questions of the county Cabinet Member for Transport [Matt Furniss, Con, Shalford] about the way Highways is being run.

Residents deserve better than constant congestion caused by badly scheduled and poorly signposted roadworks, and someone needs to take responsibility for putting things right.

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Responses to ‘Residents Deserve Better’ Says County Councillor After No Notice Road Closure

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    June 6, 2021 at 12:27 am

    Five hours of SCC failing to answer phones on Thursday but just 2 minutes 15 seconds on Saturday. You could not make it up.

  2. Frank Emery Reply

    June 6, 2021 at 6:33 pm

    Everything SCC and GBC do always impacts on the residents without any thought whatsoever.

    They have no respect for the Guildford people, as shown by the disgraceful state of Guildford town centre.

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