Last November a residents’ meeting for St Catherines Hill, Higher Backway and Higher Tolbury looked at the problem of lorries getting stuck in St Catherines Hill and causing damage to property. The County Council has now decided what it is prepared to do to address the problem. Further details are given later, but they will not be reinstating the gully, as residents had wished. The Town Council will need to make its decision about the way forward. Once again we invite your views.
At the residents’ meeting it was clear that the majority of those present thought that the best way of stopping lorries was for the gully that used to run down its eastern side to be reinstated. (For those who don’t know the detail County Council contractors filled in the gully when they re-surfaced the road some four years ago. The residents’ view was that the gully acted as a natural visual deterrent to lorries. It was also an attractive historical feature in the conservation area, and channeled water away from the wall of adjacent properties.)
Since the November meeting the Town Council (and our County Councilor) have lobbied the County Council to get the gully re-instated. County Council officers recommended that the cost (at approximately £3,000) was prohibitive, and that success could not be guaranteed. Because of the lobbying, the decision was eventually referred to David Fothergill, the Portfolio Holder for Highways at the County. Regrettably he has decided in favour of his officers, and we therefore have to accept that this is and will remain the County Council’s decision.
Town Cllrs Mike Brownlow and James Hood met with John Nicholson Assistant Highway Services Manager and Tony Leach (both from Somerset County Council) on 27 April 2016. During the meeting we were told two things we had not been told before. Firstly, the decision to cover over the gully was not an error on the part of the contractors, but had been requested by the County Council. Secondly that the quote of £3,000 includes a fee of approximately £1,000 for a Traffic Restriction Order to close the road for work, an archaeologist’s consultation fee, and an allowance for making sure that the edge of the carriageway has foundations firm enough to take the weight of vehicles. Taking these factors into account the £3,000 quote does not look as excessive as it first appeared.
We discussed the way forward in the light of the County Council’s decision.
1. The County Council is offering to paint a thick line down the lower part of the hill approximately on the lines of the outer edge of the gully. The thinking is that this will act as a visual deterrent.
2. The County Council will build a fillet at the bottom of the property wall on the eastern side of the roadway, to channel surface water away from the wall.
3. The Town Council has not yet taken a decision, but at the moment the Council is not minded to pay £3,000 to have the gully reinstated. This is about 5% of our annual expenditure, and its success cannot be guaranteed, as further problems may be caused by the work, leading to additional expenditure.
4. As you may have seen the Town Council has erected some temporary and light-hearted warning signs. As there is a physical width restriction at the bottom of St Catherines Hill we propose asking the County Council to erect at least two advisory signs informing drivers of the width restriction. This is likely to cost £200-£300, will not require a Traffic Restriction Order, and so can be done relatively quickly.
Your views are invited!