Chaos as work on weak culvert starts

PUBLISHED: 07:16 28 September 2006 | UPDATED: 09:52 31 May 2010

A lorry driver is warned of the danger

A lorry driver is warned of the danger

SHOPKEEPERS have voiced their concerns as work finally got under way to repair the culvert which runs under Cross Street in Saffron Walden on Monday. Red and white bollards and steel railings have covered the affected area since May 2002, after Essex Coun

SHOPKEEPERS have voiced their concerns as work finally got under way to repair the culvert which runs under Cross Street in Saffron Walden on Monday.

Red and white bollards and steel railings have covered the affected area since May 2002, after Essex County Council discovered part of the culvert was weak and in danger of collapsing.

Hill Street will be closed to through traffic for the duration of the work, which is expected to last for 12 weeks, and traffic is being diverted off George Street into Gold Street.

Mel Garner, of Suffolk Sports in George Street, said lorry drivers were still turning into the road, seemingly unaware that Hill Street has been shut.

"It was bedlam out there on Tuesday morning, as three great big lorries all turned into George Street one after the other and they all had to reverse back out on to the High Street, knocking a wing mirror off a parked car in the process," she said.

"I'm really worried that the work will be going on in the run-up to Christmas, although I would have had something to say if the council had started the work last month, as that's a busy time for us."

David Woodhouse, owner of Chaps barbershop in George Street, said he hoped the work would be completed within the

12 weeks.

"Those horrible bollards have been there for four years so I'm concerned that the work will go on for longer than the council has said it will," he said.

"There's no point getting angry as I'm glad the work is being done, but I'm very worried about the noise that will be made and all the dirt and dust."

Stuart Townsend, a senior engineer from the county council's chosen contractor, Mouchel Parkman, spent Monday afternoon holding up a sign and speaking to drivers in the High Street to warn them of the road closure.

Mr Townsend's colleague, Nagaratnam Piraba, said: "About 2600 letters were sent out to homes in the immediate area detailing the closure and we came into the town centre on Friday to put copies on people's windscreens."

A spokeswoman for the county council's highways department said the four-year delay was due to the complexity of the engineering work which has to be done.

She said: "The work is incredibly difficult and complex, as the culvert is weak and runs under several buildings.

"We had to be sure that we could safeguard the surrounding buildings before confirming that the work could go ahead.

"This has given us a huge engineering problem, but we are pleased to have finally got a scheme in place which has allowed us to begin work on the culvert."

The culvert is made of brick and is known to have been constructed before 1749.

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