New North Walsham toilets still shut as Vicarage Street braces itself for third set of roadworks within a few weeks
07:00 17 May 2012
© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2012
Drills will be in action for the third time this spring digging up one of North Walsham’s busiest road junctions in a bid to complete work on the town’s new behind-schedule public toilets.
First surface dressing unconnected to the toilet block held-up motorists. Days later energy firm EDF dug up the road once more to install electricity serving the new toilet block, which sits in the corner of the Vicarage Street car park.
And the temporary traffic lights will be flashing again for about a fortnight when Anglian Water (AW) arrives to connect up the toilets to its water and sewerage systems, probably on June 6.
Meanwhile the opening date for the toilets, originally expected to be late March or the beginning of April, has now been pencilled in for sometime in June.
A North Walsham councillor involved with the North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) toilet project said they were frustrated by the disruption but were at the mercy of the utility companies.
Jason Cooper, co-manager of nearby DRD motorcycles, on Bacton Road, has condemned the lack of co-ordination as “disgraceful.”
Mr Cooper said it had been “an absolute nightmare” trying to get the firm’s van on and off their premises during the constant roadworks, which are close to the busy entrance and exit to Sainsbury’s supermarket and petrol station.
On learning that yet more road disruption was imminent, he added: “There hasn’t been any planning over this. It sounds like a complete lack of communication between people.”
An NNDC spokesman said they had no control over activities on a public highway. He added: “We are a customer of the utility companies as are any other members of the public. The utility companies individually negotiate with county highways regarding any road-related activities and then set the time for their work.”
Nick Tupper, highways maintenance manager at Norfolk County Council, said they made every effort to co-ordinate works to minimise road disruption but they had not realised how close the electricity installation would be to where they had carried out surface dressing and so those two jobs had unfortunately not been dove-tailed.
Mr Tupper said they could only plan for works through receiving a “streetworks notice.”
He added: “In many cases it is quite usual for us to receive a streetworks notice only three days before works are to be carried out. Any reinstatement works that are required have to be carried out by the utility company who cover the cost of this work.”
Highways aimed to get all the remaining works completed under a single set of traffic lights, and with a single trench reinstatement.
An Anglian Water spokesman said they had only received a request to carry out the work on May 3 and had acted as swiftly as possible.
Eric Seward, a North Walsham district councillor and chairman of the Leadership of Place project which aims to re-invigorate the town, said he was focusing on the future, when there would be a new toilet block open and fully installed for about £60,000 - far cheaper than if NNDC had refurbished or rebuilt the existing block, off the St Nicholas Court precinct,
Mr Seward added: “I’m as angry and frustrated that they keep digging up the road as anyone else but in the long run we will be left with better facilities.”
● Earlier this year transport minister Norman Baker announced a plan, still under consultation, to cut red tape in a bit to tackle roadworks disruption,
It would see a street works permit scheme set up giving councils more power to co-ordinate works. Any party breaking strict conditions could be prosecuted and face a fine of up to £5,000.