'Relentless' construction work in Newport is putting lives at risk, council claims
PUBLISHED: 08:21 14 March 2019 | UPDATED: 08:31 14 March 2019
Uttlesford District Council (UDC) has "failed in its duty to protect residents", Newport Parish Council has claimed.
Residents say they have been trapped in their homes because articulated lorries are causing gridlock on single-track roads around the parish.
In 2011 there were 974 houses in the village. A further 523 houses have been approved since then across 42 separate developments - 290 of the approvals and 24 of the developments are in Bury Water Lane and Whiteditch Lane.
Residents say there have been three instances in the last few weeks where roads have been impassable for several hours due to construction vehicles. In two cases, a bridge and electricity pylons were hit by vehicles.
A statement from Newport Parish Council said: “These roads are not safe and UDC, as local planning authority, bears ultimate responsibility for the developments they have permitted.”
Parish councillor Judy Emanuel said the chaos on the roads was relentless and parish councillors were doing their best to mitigate the risks.
“UDC has failed in its duty to protect residents’ lives. It’s just relentless,” she said. They are not setting any conditions on planning applications to address the construction chaos or improve the infrastructure to cope with the traffic. There isn’t even room for emergency services vehicles.
“Ultimately, the road needs widening - there are cars from 290 new houses using single-track roads. They have done nothing to improve the roads apart from build two passing bays, which are now used for parking by contractors at the building sites.
“We are really sick of it. We have been working hard to mitigate the risks, but we are getting no support whatsoever - it’s very difficult when we have no authority, unlike UDC and Essex Highways. They don’t even care to respond to our e-mails.”
In an open letter to Councillor Howard Rolfe, leader of UDC, Oliver Davies said he and other Newport residents have been let down.
“The last 12 months has been horrendous for residents of Bury Water Lane and School Lane and the associated roads that lead off them with continuous construction traffic, roadworks and delivery lorries blocking access to their homes,” Mr Davies said. “This has a direct impact on people’s lives, missing doctor’s appointments, dropping children off at school late and being late to work.
“Parents and carers delivering their children to Joyce Frankland Academy cannot safely drop their children off nearby due to congestion and roadworks. “They also can’t let them walk to school because the large construction vehicles are mounting kerbs to get round the excessive traffic and the pavements have parked vehicles on them.
“Local roads have been damaged and not repaired. Families have endured the anxieties associated with being physically trapped within their own homes. Sometimes for weeks.”
The statement from Newport Parish Council asks what would have to happen for UDC and Howard Rolfe to “take responsibility for their actions and help to resolve them” and emphasised that it is not a “politically motivated” issue.
“This is a safety issue and cannot continue being ignored,” the statement said.
Cllr Rolfe said: “It is acknowledged by everyone that the situation is difficult. There have been multiple building applications from landowners and others in this area, many of which have been won on appeal. The positive news is that there is very little further development proposed for Newport in the local plan.
“The parking problem has been compounded by utility works on the highway necessitating a one-way system.
“I have written to the police and called for a greater police presence at key times and this has been reinforced by dialogue with the developers to insist on responsible parking. The parish council has also provided an alternative site for parking.
“Essex County Council is including repairs to Whiteditch Lane as accommodation works in the developer’s Section 278 commitments - this means that developers will pay for the damage they have caused to the highway.
“Footpaths are being built on Whiteditch Lane and there is an option to introduce a path at the bottom of the lane which is being considered by the parish council.
“UDC will continue to work with the highways and drainage authority, Essex County Council, to deliver solutions but it may not be instant while building continues. UDC will continue to work closely with the parish council.”
A spokesman for Essex Highways said: “Testing by structures engineers on the culvert (bridge) are due to be carried out next week. “Bury Water Lane and Whiteditch Lane are both designated “byways open to all traffic”, they are narrow, with no pavement for pedestrians.
“Particularly on Whiteditch Lane construction traffic has caused significant damage. Despite our best efforts, development companies working in the area have not agreed to compensate Highways for damage to the road caused by their heavy vehicles, so we have been obliged to use some of the compulsory planning contribution moneys they have paid for these repairs.
“Managers from Essex Highways have had several communications with Newport Parish Council to respond to their concerns. As a result we have introduced temporary one-way traffic on Bury Water Lane to alleviate congestion.
“We are looking at potential ways to fund extending the one-way restrictions beyond Friday, March 15.”