Comedy of errors
PUBLISHED: 12:16 07 February 2008 | UPDATED: 12:57 06 May 2010
SIR, — After reading your editorial comment on the truly laughable promotional blurb from Mouchel (Herts Advertiser, January 31), I felt in the mood for some more farcical entertainment so I decided to observe the highways joint panel meeting being held t
SIR, - After reading your editorial comment on the truly laughable promotional blurb from Mouchel (Herts Advertiser, January 31), I felt in the mood for some more farcical entertainment so I decided to observe the highways joint panel meeting being held that evening. Despite the district manager for Herts Highways now having two assistant managers this still did not improve the accuracy of their reports. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
It seems that every week fellow readers of the Herts Advertiser bring to our collective attention dangerous pot holes and pavements in need of urgent repair. Indeed residents brought petitions to the meeting regarding the poor and dangerous state of the paving in their streets. If Herts Highways can be persuaded to repave, usually it will be with the cheap black top (tarmac) requiring a less skilled workforce I suggest, instead of proper flag stones or blue brick.
In a highly misleading report, on the use of blue bricks within our conservation areas, Herts Highways ascertained that using blue brick paving "....can be as much as four times the cost of 'traditional' black-top surfacing".
Fortunately a sharp-eyed councillor asked if the life cycle costing of the paving had been used to arrive at the estimate. The district manager had to concede that it had not. He was forced to admit further that blue brick paving can last, as residents would suspect, over 100 years - and so too York stone I might add - whereas tarmac lasts about 10 to 15 years. So the four times the costing was purely the upfront cost of materials and labour. Where is the value for tax payers' money in that, or the benefit to the historic public realm? Let's not forget the balderdash we have been told about the St Peter's Street paving too, or the long-winded piffle on that subject from some district councillors.
This agency is just interested in quick, cheap fixes and doesn't care a hoot if we have to keep paying over and over again to replace its cheap and shoddy work; after all Mouchel and Amey Lafarge still get their fees.
So this agency's legacy, when its credibility can no longer be bolstered by Herts County Council politicians aided by the district council's acquiescence, will be to leave the roads and paving in just as dire a state as they are today, further eroding the quality of our public space. The county council tells us they have less money this year from Government to pay for our roads and paving - all the more reason I suggest for them to take a long hard look on how that reduced sum is being spent.
An exasperated district councillor, who was very frustrated over Herts Highways' intransigence on a blindingly-obvious safety issue along the Redbourn Road, inferred that although Herts Highways officers come to the panel meetings they just went away and did what they liked. I could not fail to agree, so how much longer can this situation be tolerated? The Herts Highways contract comes up for full review, I believe, in September 2009. We should be demanding with an even-stronger voice a change in the way our highways services are delivered with a more modern approach. We need, to pinch Barack Obama's presidential campaign slogan, a "Change We Can Believe In".
Tennyson Road, St Albans.