The Chairman welcomed County Councillor E Johnson, Essex County Council Portfolio Holder for Highways Maintenance and Small Schemes Delivery and Mike Thompson from Essex Highways.
County Councillor Johnson thanked the Chairman for inviting him to the meeting to speak about the lack of signage of road closures and works in the district. He advised the meeting that he was not aware that there was a lack of signage and would advise members of the normal procedures:
(1) County Members should be notified on any road closures in their area, one week in advance of it being advertised in the press;
(2) after being advertised in the press the Districts should then be notified;
(3) as a legal requirement notices should be posted on the site of the road closure; and
(4) the standard yellow and black signs with advance notice of the closure should be erected.
Occasionally roads are closed for emergency works which cannot be planned, County Council try to give five days notice but due to the urgency this may not always be possible.
The statistics for the Epping Forest District were that the revenue maintenance works which were reactionary, of the 313 schemes completed, 19 required road closures which equated to 6%. The capital works there were 78 schemes completed, 42 required road closures which equated to 54%, these schemes were primarily surface dressing or surface works.
The Chairman thanked County Councillor Johnson for his presentation and asked members if they had any questions.
(a) Ongar Town Councillor B Surtees stated that there seemed to be a very erratic approach to giving notice on the yellow signs, some are big some are small, some are put up early some are late, sometimes the signage is not coherent. The road signs don’t seem to be taken down after the works have been done. An example being I drove down a minor road and half an hour later drove back and there were road works but there had been no signage to say these were going to happen. This was and example which residents would report to me..
Mike Thompson advised that he would take on board the points and take this information away and review a process for the installation and removal of the signs and will feed that back accordingly.
(b) Fyfield Parish Councillor N Bridge advised that a resident, registered disabled, complained when she found that her driveway had been blocked by an Essex Highways van repairing the pathway outside of her property. No notification of these works had been received by the resident and she was therefore stuck in the house all day.
County Councillor Johnson advised that if planned works were going ahead then the residents who would be affected should have been informed of the planned works, unless it was an emergency and not planned.
Mike Thompson advised that it was standard practice to letter drop in advance of planned maintenance work. If the maintenance work affected the road then every resident in that road should be informed.
For residents with computer access could log onto www.roadworks.org this website had the details of all planned works in the Essex County.
(c) Chigwell Parish Councillor K Chana asked where utility companies were doing works shouldn’t the same principles of informing residents be applied as the County Council with displaying adequate signage.
Mike Thompson advised that they should consult and notify where possible unless the repairs were of an emergency nature, this was standard practice.
County Councillor Johnson stated that from March 2015, the utility companies would ask permission from Essex County Council (ECC) to dig up the highways, ECC would ensure that residents were notified and then issue a permit.
(d) North Weald Parish Clerk, Susan DeLuca advised that County Councillor Jackson suggested she should bring this matter to the attention of County Councillor Johnson. North Weald have problems with the web base reporting, its not updated on a regular basis, it was out of date, the majority of items that were being reported as North Weald were being reported as in Sheering or Nazeing and they did not adhere to the 28 day inspection rules.
County Councillor Johnson advised that North Weald Parish Council should advise their residents to use the portals that Essex County Council were using.
The Parish Clerk advised that they used the same portals as the general public would use.
County Councillor Johnson advised that he had received the Parish Clerk’s email and officers had looked into the problems reported and they had found it no slower than the members who used the information portals.
(e) Councillor Metcalfe advised that in the minutes of the last committee meeting which County Councillor Bass had attended, he had stated that the Local Highways Panel would deal with resident parking permit schemes. Had the Highways Liaison Officer been made aware of this and could they now use the Local Highways Panel budget for controlled parking zone schemes in order for safety and congestion.
County Council Johnson stated that this was something he and Councillor Bass would like to implement. He advised that there was a route and branch review going on from the North and South Parking Partnerships and they were looking at reallocating funds to the Highways Panels for next year and to update of the terms of reference to include this item.
(f) Nazeing Parish Councillor D Borton asked why repairs to signage took so long to get repaired. Gateways were fitted in Middle Street in Nazeing earlier this year and then subsequently a bus knocked the sign down. She advised that this was reported over two months ago and had also advised County Councillor Jackson.
The Parish Councillor stated that there must be some funds to replace signs which was a maintenance job. We have all the details a resident has the sign, the details of the bus that was involved and photographs.
Mike Thompson advised that the details of the incident should be sent to him and he would follow this enquiry up.
(g) The Parish Clerk from Moreton, Bobbingworth and the Lavers advised that this issue concerned Stanford Rivers. In January 2014 they reported a number of signs which had been knocked down or missing with a further report to Essex County Council in October 2014. However the County’s website advised that this situation did not meet their criteria but would be reviewed as part of an ongoing maintenance programme next year. Could Parish / Town Councils take this responsibility on themselves.
Councillor Johnson advised that the County Council were happy for the Town and Parish Councils to contribute to the works but for legal reasons Essex County Council or Essex Highways had to complete the works.
The Parish Clerk advised that in terms of importance this particular sign was directing people to the village hall to attend functions, but there were no signs directing people to the hall so the functions did not get attended and this affected the viability of the village hall.
County Councillor Johnson advised the Parish Clerk to send the information to him by email and he would look into the matter.
(h) Councillor Pond asked if there was a general problem with replacing street lighting and felled lamp posts. He advised that there were three or four felled lamp posts in his ward waiting to be replaced which had been outstanding for over a year.
County Councillor Johnson stated that when a felled lamp post needed replacing, County had to inform the utility company to disconnect the electric supply then the new lamp post put in then wait for the utility company to reconnect the electricity supply to the new post. The utility companies gave 3 months notice and if this expired the County Council had to start the process again. The situation would change from March 2015 as the County Council would provide a work slot and issue a permit to work on the highways. The County Councillor asked for details of these issues to be emailed to him and he would follow them up.
(i) Ongar Town Councillor B Surtees questioned the poor markings on Zebra Crossings in Ongar and North Weald. Enquiries through the system have advised that it was not priority and the Councillor stated that the safety of the public should be a priority.
County Councillor Johnson advised that they relied on the expertise of their engineers when they make an assessment. The engineers may agree that it would need to be done but it was not a priority. The County Councillor asked for the details to be emailed to him and he would ask for the sites to be revisited.