Over the last couple of weeks residents of several local streets have experienced disruption due to the laying of new broadband cable. So what’s going on and what can be done if the work isn’t up to scratch?
I’ve had a lot of conversations and emails with residents over the last week or so about disruption caused by Shepherds, the contractors digging up local streets on behalf of broadband provider Grain. The work seems to have come as a total surprise to everyone. Many people have commented to me along the lines of “why weren’t we informed” and “why weren’t we consulted”. I think these are valid questions and I’m trying to get answers for you from the council’s Street Works team, who have an oversight role related to all such works. The initial response I received was:
- “We are aware of the works being undertaken by Grain and they do have a valid permit to work… Unfortunately the Highway Authority cannot advise homeowners as per the request made”.
I’m continuing to pursue this as doesn’t strike me as very satisfactory. It seems only reasonable that somebody must inform residents when disruptive work is planned. Either the authority granting permission needs to handle associated communication to residents, or the party to whom the permission has been granted needs to take responsibility for it. To simply turn up unannounced and begin such major work is not acceptable. We know that when work took place in parts of Tynemouth signs were attached to lamp posts, but not here. By way of example just yesterday I had residents of Waterloo Place asking me about luminous spray paint appearing on their pavement – clearly indicating work is about to begin. It just isn’t good enough and so I’m following that up too.
Finally there is the issue of the quality of the work. Residents have provided me examples of shabby repairs, and I’ve seen some with my own eyes too. Here’s what the Street Works team told me when I raised this:
- “Please rest assured that all works are subject to a thorough inspection process, with inspections carried out at four intervals as follows:
- The first inspection is during the works to identify that contractors are carrying out the works in a safe manner and to ensure all signage, cones and barriers conform to relevant standards.
- The second is a post work inspection of the site to identify if all machinery, materials, signage and barriers, etc. have been cleared, and the reinstatement is to a suitable standard.
- The third is a six month inspection of the reinstatement to identify whether it is still at a suitable standard.
- Lastly, a 24 month inspection is undertaken. If it is identified that the reinstatement is performing to a suitable standard, the Council will accept the reinstatement as ‘passed’. If, at any time during the inspection process, the reinstatement is deemed not to be to a suitable standard, a joint site meeting takes place between the relevant contractor and the council to agree the areas of concern to be reworked.”
My main concern with this is to ensure that work is completed to a high standard BEFORE the contractors leave the area. We know that they seem to be in a rush – as demonstrated last week when they burst a gas main on Lindisfarne Terrace. As I see it, when they’re gone they’re gone, not much point trying to get them back 6 months later.
So, in closing, if you find shabby work happening near your home here’s my advice:
- Take a photo and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org along with your name, address and the date that the work happened. Describe what’s wrong as clearly as you can. You can copy me in on your email (CllrWilson@icloud.com).
- That way the Street Works team can target their inspections more quickly, more accurately, and hopefully deal with more of the problems more quickly.
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