Skip to content

Council slammed over timing of consultation – Failure to consult local businesses and key stakeholders

The City of Durham Parish Council has called on the works to be delayed by at least six months to let businesses recover after the coronavirus lockdown.

A parish council has grave concerns over the “timing, planning and inexcusable” lack of consultation over the closure of a Durham city centre bridge. The City of Durham Parish Council has written to the Chief Executive of Durham County Council over the closure of the New Elvet Bridge from mid-July for a period of 14 months. The local authority announced a £7.5m upgrade of the bridge that will see the lifting and supporting of the central section of the bridge whilst work is undertaken on the deck joints, along with extensive concrete repairs. But parish councillors fear the works will have a detrimental impact on businesses trying to recover after the coronavirus lockdown and have called on the scheme to be postponed for at least six months.

Parish councillor Elizabeth Scott said: “The Parish Council recognises that these maintenance works are essential and therefore understands that these works must take place. However, we have serious concerns about both the timing and the mitigation measures proposed. The Parish Council considers that it was a serious mistake not to consult with local businesses, the Parish Council and other key stakeholders in the city ahead of this announcement. Had this been done we and the other parties would have been able to offer our local knowledge and experience in order to mitigate the damage that will be done. The first official communication the Parish Council received from the County Council on these works was on June 4 in the form of a leaflet to local residents which presented the proposals as a fait accomplice. Yet, this bridge carries over 17,000 vehicles per day, forms an essential link between the east and west sides of Durham and its closure and the proposed diversion routes will have a significant and adverse impact on many parts of our parish area. That these measures have been drawn up without taking advantage of our local expertise is, to us, inexplicable and inexcusable.”

She added: “The County Council has offered no public explanation as to why these works are deemed necessary at this particular moment in time; such works may be scheduled under normal standards for every 10 or 20 years, but are there any risks of actual immediate failure? In which case, the bridge should have been closed as soon as these risks had been identified. Furthermore, the closure of this bridge and the timeframe set by the county council for these works have taken no account of the current covid-19 pandemic and the severe impact this has already had on local businesses in the city. The closure of this bridge at the very moment when the city begins to reopen from a UK-wide lockdown will undoubtedly be a significant and further setback for our businesses. Local businesses have already shared their concerns with the parish council. Consequently, the start of these works must, in the view of the parish council and the local businesses who have contacted us, be delayed by between six months and a year, until those businesses have managed to begin to recover from the enforced lockdown over the past three months. The county council must also investigate ways of accelerating works as and when they do commence, in order to reduce the currently proposed timeframe of a 14 months closure”.

The parish council has also expressed concern that the restrictions and diversions proposed prioritise through traffic to the detriment of the residents of our parish. Specifically, the parish council believes the No Right Turn from the A690 into Allergate is unnecessary and will create more congestion at the North Road roundabout. The council says the proposals have failed to take account of local conditions as they, for example, involve two steep hills which are known locally to be subject to vehicular accidents every year, particularly in icy weather. The parish council believes that with our local knowledge it should be possible to come up with alternative arrangements that would keep through traffic flowing and be less disruptive to the lives of local residents.

Councillors say it is essential that the county council enters into a dialogue with the parish council on the timing of these repairs and alternative route proposals prior to any work commencing. Alan Patrickson, Durham County Council’s corporate director of neighbourhoods and climate change, said it is critical that work takes place as soon as possible to ensure the bridge is structurally sound.

He added: “If work isn’t carried out now, a structural failure could occur which would result in an unplanned, immediate closure requiring much more prolonged and extensive repairs to the bridge. Although it wasn’t possible to proceed with proposed information events because of the coronavirus outbreak and government restrictions on social contact, we made direct contact with residents and businesses in the vicinity of New Elvet Bridge, informing them of the works. We will continue to encourage people who are visiting the city to use alternative routes or public transport, in line with the latest government guidance. We’re committed to doing everything possible to supporting businesses as restrictions continue to ease. The city remains open for business and access to car parks and the park and ride facilities will be available throughout the works. To support this, we will ensure regular updates are communicated through our website and social media.”

 

Article originally appeared on  Chronicle Live

The Institute cannot confirm the accuracy of this story or confirm that it presents a balanced view. If you feel this is inaccurate we would welcome your perspective and evidence that this is the case.

 

Scroll To Top