Grey area

PUBLISHED: 11:31 05 June 2008 | UPDATED: 13:18 06 May 2010

SIR, — I would like to remind fellow residents that next Wednesday evening, June 11, St Albans District Council s all party Overview and Scrutiny committee will meet and discuss the grey granite paving in St Peter s Street. In my opinion this committee ha

SIR, - I would like to remind fellow residents that next Wednesday evening, June 11, St Albans District Council's all party Overview and Scrutiny committee will meet and discuss the grey granite paving in St Peter's Street. In my opinion this committee has shown enormous patience and fortitude to even get to this point. Fellow readers may recall this is the committee that had to wait nine months for officers to arrange tests on the granite to see if and how the paving could be cleaned. They had to also respectfully remind the Cabinet back in April that they were still investigating the matter as it seemed the cabinet wanted to jump the gun and seal some of the paving expressly going against the findings of the long-awaited test results.

It seems to me that council officers are trying every trick in the book to try to persuade councillors to take the easy course and let hard-pressed council tax payers pick up the tab for Mouchel's mistakes.

At the time of writing this, like all residents I haven't a clue what will be in the officers' report to this committee. I can hazard a few guesses though.

1.) The criterion for Mouchel's choosing this material did not have to include whether it could be cleaned. Wrong! As consultants, Mouchel had "to use reasonable skill and care" in all their work ensuring any materials were "fit for purpose". Incidentally council leader Robert Donald argued the paving was "not fit for purpose" at the July 2007 full council meeting.

2.) Councillors had agreed to the use of the material. Wrong! The Highways Joint Member Panel was asked directly by the project manager from Mouchel to "note" the choice of material. They really had little choice but to acquiesce as the paving material was due to be laid within a matter of two months. Also, I suggest, if the councillors had been asked to agree, they would have had to rely on the consultants (Mouchel) disclosing all pertinent information to allow an informed decision.

3.) That St Albans council can't do anything about it as highways is a county matter. Wrong! Until recently the district council's website stated that Herts Highways (which includes Mouchel) worked in partnership with the district council within the county, hence the Joint Members Panel. So the district council, I suggest, is a very interested third party in this "partnership" arrangement.

As I mentioned in a previous letter, I have calculated over the full life expectancy of this paving material if restitution is not pursued that St Albans council tax payers will have to stump up £3 million to just clean this one small area of the city.

Just to make sure of my facts I consulted a stone specialist myself, who has supplied paving for some very prestigious schemes in the centre of London, and showed him pictures of the filthy paving. He recognised the granite paving immediately and was able to quote me chapter and verse on it. However when I told him it had been laid where a twice-weekly, open-air market including fruit and vegetables stalls was held, he looked concerned and with obvious caveats, said without prompting that this choice of material could very well have been a design error.

It confirmed for me what I had thought for a very long time, and I suspect many other residents too, using a phrase recently employed by a cabinet minister, that this was "bleeding obvious". The only question remains therefore are councillors and officers prepared to take the next "obvious" step?

VANESSA GREGORY,

Tennyson Road, St Albans.

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