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Watch Your Step in Guildford – SCC Says It Can’t Afford Proper Pavement Repairs

Published on: 22 Apr, 2019
Updated on: 22 Apr, 2019

By Hugh Coakley

Surrey County Council claims it does not have the money to perform proper repairs on Guildford’s pavement hazards, while residents say its stop-gap practices make the town centre look “run down”.

Poor pavement maintenance leads to trip dangers, especially for older and disabled residents as well as unsuspecting pedestrians. Serious falls could lead to successful compensation claims, ultimately paid for by taxpayers.

Following contact by The Guildford Dragon NEWS, barriers were hastily put up in Haydon Place at the Waitrose supermarket after a meeting between Surrey County Council and the supermarket. There were at least 15 other rocking paving blocks outside of the cordoned-off area.

One pedestrian said: “It’s shoddy. Have they never laid a paving-slab before?” A shopkeeper said: “It makes the whole place look so run down.”

Workmen outside of The Friary centre carrying out temporary repairs to rocking paving slabs within 30 minutes of a call from The Guildford Dragon NEWS.

And within half an hour of The Guildford Dragon NEWS calling managers at The Friary centre on Wednesday (April 17) about the pavement hazards outside the centre, workmen were seen making temporary repairs to rocking paving-slabs.

The Guildford Dragon NEWS first raised the issue of dangerously poor-quality pavements in the town centre in February this year (2019) and followed this with a Freedom of Information (FoI) request to Surrey County Council for its pavement inspection records.

The FoI response revealed that the present Surrey County Council practice is for tarmac patching instead of replacing slabs. The response states: “If a slab is broken it will be made safe with tarmac which is a permanent repair until funding becomes available to reinstate the paving slab. Currently, there is no funding for this.”

Dragon readers have complained about the use of tarmac to effect repairs, especially when used to replace granite setts, as in the High Street, or paving-slabs. In 2016, Surrey County Council banned any work on the High Street setts other than emergencies and gave assurances that the granite stones would be replaced properly after any repairs. Despite this, one tarmac repair has remained in place for months.

This temporary tarmac repair in the setts in the High Street has been in place for months. Surrey County Council had assured residents that the granite setts would be replaced after any repairs.

Gateway to Guildford town centre, a main route from the railway station to the town, is a patchwork of broken slabs and tarmac repairs.

Patchwork pavement outside of The Friary centre. The Guildford Dragon NEWS counted at least 20 rocking and cracked slabs to the right of the blocked area which is maintained by Surrey Council. To the left of the blocks, maintained by the Friary centre, there were at least 10 rocking or cracked slabs.

Photographed in February 2019, the pavement outside of the Laura Ashley shop in North Street has had the temporary repairs for some time spoiling the look of the recently upgraded footway

Guildford Borough Council plans to spend £2 million on new paving in Chapel Street and Swan Lane by the end of the year. But the quality of workmanship on our town centre pavements and Surrey County council’s inspection regime is causing concern. At present, the county council is picking up the tab for fixing defects which are often the responsibility of a service company.

The Dragon informed Surrey County Council in February of three places which exceeded the council’s 20mm trip-hazard limit, two of which were BT manholes. The private company manholes have now been replaced but only after temporary repairs by the council, paid for by the taxpayer.

A survey of the pavements in North Street, High Street and Haydon Place was carried out by The Guildford Dragon NEWS in February and April this year. The surveys have uncovered far more pavement defects than those recorded in the redacted reports provided under FoI by Surrey County Council and exposed a discrepancy between the council’s formal reports and observations made on the ground.

Analysis of FoI for SCC inspections in North Street and Haydon Place compared to Dragon surveys

The reports note four rocking paving-slabs outside the Friary centre. The Dragon’s survey counted at least 30 rocking slabs, 20 in the area maintained by Surrey County Council and 10 in the area maintained by The Friary centre. There was also an apparent repair to a rocking slab that has resulted in the slab not only still rocking but now cracked.

A similar story can be observed outside Waitrose in Haydon Place. This is despite Surrey County Council recording the status of all of the reported problems as “completed”.

Comparison of a repaired paving-slab outside The Friary between February and April 2019. The slab had sunk and was rocking in February. After apparently being lifted, it is still rocking underfoot and is now cracked.

Cllr Matt Furniss, Surrey County Council’s  Cabinet member for highways, was asked for comment and a spokesperson from the council responded: “We work hard to maintain pavements for our residents and are sending crews to repair the problems spotted in Guildford on the pathway outside Waitrose and on the pedestrian crossing onto Bridge Street.

“We believe delivery lorries driving onto the pavements illegally is the main cause of a lot of damage and we’re looking to see if anything more can be done to prevent that.

”The slabbed area near The Friary is their private land and therefore they would have to carry out any repairs.”

The Dragon then spoke to The Friary who contradicted this, saying Surrey County Council does maintain some of the paving outside The Friary. The county council has been asked to clarify.

As for the pavement by Waitrose, a company spokesperson said: “Our maintenance team is arranging for repairs to the pavement which will be done as soon as possible.”

Despite several calls, The Friary management did not return our requests for a comment on the state of the pavement under their control.

Uneven pavements and unstable rocking slabs are a safety hazard. One Dragon reader, a 75-year-old woman from Epsom, told us she had tripped and injured herself in North Street in September 2018.

After a seven-month delay, Surrey County Council denied her claim although The Dragon has measured at least two trip hazards where she fell which are greater than the 20mm trip hazard limit.

A nearby shopkeeper said: “I have observed a few people tripping at that point.” As he was talking, a young man tripped but fortunately recovered without falling.

The Dragon will be providing the evidence to Surrey County Council for its consideration.

Even taking into account that the pavement is cobbled, there are at least two locations which exceed the 20mm council limit for a trip hazard.

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test 3 Responses to Watch Your Step in Guildford – SCC Says It Can’t Afford Proper Pavement Repairs

  1. Peter Smith Reply

    April 22, 2019 at 4:17 pm

    With regard to setts in the High Street, there are actually two sites where a water service company has dug up the road and not correctly reinstated the areas.

    I alerted SCC to this fact shortly after the works had been carried out, some eighteen months ago and they said they had agreement from Thames Water that it would fund a correct reinstatement.

    Despite further correspondence with both Guildford and Surrey councillors about this matter, I have only received assurances that the work will be undertaken at some point. I wonder when this will be?

  2. Jim Allen Reply

    April 22, 2019 at 5:29 pm

    Because of a trip hazard, I suffered a broken elbow in 1982 and, consequently, arthritis today. Tripping hazards of poorly supported paving slabs are very real, even for those of “working age”. I was in plaster for 10 weeks. The compensation, such that it was, for this one failure to maintain the pavement was then £5,000.00 plus the legal cost to the relevant council in London.

    How can it be cost effective to simply leave them unrepaired? It does not cost £5,000 to properly fix one paving slab, even at today’s exaggerated costings. Why should people suffer to the end of their days because councils cannot manage proper reasonable repairs contracts?

  3. Pim Doornmalen Reply

    April 25, 2019 at 10:12 am

    What does Surrey County Council do with all the money they receive from all the rates, rent and service charges. Surrey is one of the richest counties in England but they keep pleading poverty and are cut back on services. If they could get away with it they would charge us for the sunshine that we get in Surrey!

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