Huppert chairs launch of national agreement to end shoddy streetworks
Cambridge MP Julian Huppert is chairing the launch of a national agreement between councils, utility companies and businesses to tackle the damage caused by shoddy streetworks.
The agreement – “What Good Looks Like” – has been drawn up after Julian presided over the launch of a taskforce set up in 2012 by the Local Government Association to tackle the growing problem.
During that launch Julian told how former Lib Dem County Councillor, Sarah Whitebread had presented a motion to Cambridgeshire County Council suggesting that utility companies should be charged daily fees for road closures to prevent lengthy delays. Sarah Whitebread’s motion came after Cambridge’s East Road was closed for weeks while new gas mains were laid.
Julian said: “Shoddy streetworks impact on businesses through lost trade and cost local highway authorities millions of pounds each year. We have seen the effect lengthy road closures caused by over-running streetworks have had on Cambridge and research has shown that this is being repeated across the country. And when the roads and pavements are not reinstated properly, this causes problems for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. Even a small scar in the pavement can make it extremely hard for someone in a wheelchair to get past.
“The new agreement requires councils, business and utility companies to sign up to a series of promises to make sure streetworks are carried out on time and to the highest standard with minimal disruption to businesses. This is a big step forward and it should lessen the impact these essential works have on towns and cities across the country.”
The Local Government Association, of which Julian is Vice-President, represents 370 councils across England and Wales and taskforce membership also includes the National Joint Utilities Group, Transport for London, British Chambers of Commerce and the Association of Convenience Stores.
Research carried out by the taskforce showed that taxpayers face bills of around £218 million a year for making good poorly repaired surfaces after work by utility companies. And 72 per cent of businesses surveyed said they had been affected by streetworks including suffering reduced footfall, forced closures and delivery delays.
The agreement requires:
- Businesses to be informed in advance of planned work and contacted when emergency work is needed. Also business given the chance to feed into local arrangements before work begins, for example on road closures.
- Contractor contracts to include a requirement for replacement work to be at a high standard and not at risk of subsequent defects. Also a commitment to – where possible – this work being carried out at the same time as the main work.
- Regular council inspections targeted to improve performance among contractors.
- Work to be carried out 24/7 to extended hours to ensure it is completed as quickly as possible. Sites not to be left unattended except where necessary, for example to let concrete dry.
- Work to be completed outside peak hours to allow the road to re-opened to traffic during peak hours.
- Councils to adopt a flexible approach to business deliveries during periods of disruption – for example through temporary changes to parking restrictions and enforcement.