County Councillor was in the village on November 16 to answer questions on Essex Highways dealings with problems with HGVs and parking matters

Q & A WITH CLLR LEE SCOTT

Essex County Councillor Lee Scott, cabinet member for Highways Maintenance & Sustainable Transport, attended our Full Council meeting earlier this month to answer questions put to him about various issues affecting Stansted’s roads and traffic.

The text has been taken from the draft minutes of this Full Council meeting. The first set of questions answered below were submitted to Cllr Scott ahead of the meeting. A further set of questions from councillors and the public were taken by the Cllr Scott at meeting at the Day Centre.

Are you committed to making the centre of Stansted an HGV free zone?  Is this project dependent upon the legislation to approve the use of cameras at the entrances to enforce the restriction?  If so, are you actively lobbying Parliament?  If not dependent, how will enforcement be undertaken?  How far along is the project and what is the likely timescale for introduction?

Cllr Scott advised he had no powers to say or do. The bill is going through Parliament. He has put in for the powers but until this has gone through, there is nothing he can do. What they cannot do is make things worse somewhere else. He cannot give timelines to when they will receive the powers as Parliament do not give out indications of timelines and there are a lot of bills that need to go through.

Cty Cllr Gooding advised that some of the tests carried out proved that it would be difficult to enforce. They need to make sure the bill and equipment is sustainable or clever lawyers will find a way through and no one will end up being prosecuted.

He has contacted Sat Nav and requested for Grove Hill to be removed as the route to take from the M11 to Elsenham, but they have no powers to enforce this and so far, it has not been done.

Is Hall Road the only alternative to Grove Hill?  What happens if it is  deemed to be unsuitable?  

Yes, Hall Road is the only alternative owned by Essex Highways. The feasibility study is assessing the safety of this road considering the recent accidents, some of which resulted in fatalities.  

 What is the County Council’s policy on repairs to potholes?

He asked for all potholes to be reported to Cty Cllr Gooding who will then put a list together of 36 of them which will be repaired.

In recent weeks Stansted has seen large numbers of dumper trucks full of earth accessing Chapel Hill and Grove Hill. It is believed they emanate from the Bishop’s Stortford North development.  The truck movements begin shortly after 5 am. There have been complaints regarding the speed of the trucks and the affect they are having on our narrow roads. What measures are the County Council taking to resolve the situation?

Cty Cllr Gooding advised that lorries dumping soil did not need consent in planning terms. He is trying to get a multi-agency meeting to discuss. To date, UDC have been dismissive, Minerals and Waste are happy to meet, and the Environment Agency would like further information on the extent of the issue. He commented that enforcement action can only be taken if there is a condition in the original planning approval for developments. Liaison with East Herts would be required to establish this with regards to Bishop’s Stortford North. Cllr Lee Scott advised that he will return in the new year and he will bring with him the Cabinet Member for Planning.

Would you promote support for the S106 Highways Fund for Foresthall Park to come under the control of the Local Highways Panel? If not, can you assure us that none of the remaining funds will have to be returned to the developers? We wish to progress a scheme to improve the footway on Church Road and have submitted this, however it may be quicker to do this through the Uttlesford LHP.

In January a complete review of S106’s will be published. The biggest issue is that new developments may have great new drains, but they then run into old drains. He cannot stop developments and Highways are only a consultee commenting on Highways issues only.

Drain clearance – can you send the annual programme for clearance.  What is ECC’s policy for clearing drains reported after that visit, but which have become blocked again.  We have a number of drains which, if not kept clear, could result in the flooding of Lower Street when the levels in the Ugley Brook rise. We were told that the inadequate drain at the bottom of Chapel Hill, outside The King’s Arms Hotel, would be replaced with a more effective type of drain. When will this work be undertaken?

Cllr Scott promised to send over the programme and added that if any drains have failed, he will ensure they are jetted. He believes it is wrong that the taxpayers pick up the bill if people are having work done such as extensions and drains get blocked due to the cement etc. He would like to see a bond paid in advance which would be paid back if no issues arise.

Street-lighting – when will the replacement columns now erected along Cambridge Road actually be in lighting – they are all still not working/

This is a problem across the country. There has been a shortage of components, but they are now sourcing these in the UK and an improvement should start to be seen. Phillips are also not making the SON lightbulbs anymore.

Bottom of Chapel Hill/corner with Lower Street – who is responsible for the leaning post which has been damaged now for around 2 years and remains in need of removal.  A similarly leaning post across the road in Lower Street was removed, we believe by Essex Highways, earlier this year.

This question was not answered at the meeting so the office will chase for an answer

Bottom of Chapel Hill – two of the lighting columns (either side of the zebra crossing) which were installed as part of the new mini roundabout scheme at the same location have been out of lighting for many months – who is responsible for these columns?

This question was not answered at the meeting so the office will chase for an answer.

Church Road traffic calming chicanes – these were installed some years ago as one of the schemes under the Foresthall Park Highways Fund S106 programme.  They are considered to be dangerous and have not calmed the traffic in the way intended.  Through your S.106 officer, we have asked for this scheme to be reviewed and to have the chicanes removed and replaced with a more suitable scheme such as speed tables or similar.  Please can you provide an update.

 He is aware of the concerns of the chicanes and has asked their engineers to undertake a review and report back to him.

What can be done about the numerous road closures and diversions around the village – Church Road alone has been closed 5 or 6 times this year.

He has no powers over utility companies, and they have to issue the permits if required. He is currently lobbying to say he would like the powers to manage them, but he doubts he will get it.

Cllr Scott commented that some of the buck stops with him and they will take the blame for those things but there are other things that don’t, and he won’t make false promises. He knows people are upset and he knows the problems.

Regarding the rumours of compulsory purchases, these have never been considered but even if they were, there is no budget for them.

With regard to street-lighting, Essex County Council has gone from paying 19p per kilo watt hour to 70p per kwh for electricity, and on top of that, 70% of ECC’s overall budget, rightly so, gets allocated to adult and child social care.

It would cost £75 million to repair every road and they don’t have the budget to spend that sort of sum. He can’t achieve everything, but he will do what he can and what the budget allows. Cllr Scott promised to come back in the new year and give an update on every question.

Questions put to Cllr Scott by Councillors and the public

 Cllr Khan asked about the flooding on Church Road and when is the drainage issue going to be resolved. Cllr Scott advised that the road is closed now for this work to be done. Cllr Khan asked when the strategic review of traffic in Stansted would be taking place as he asked Cty Cllr Gooding to undertake this over a year ago!

Cty Cllr Gooding advised that this was part of the feasibility study being funded by the Local Highways Panel into removing HGVs from the centre of Stansted. The report should be ready by Q4 of the current year. Any recommendations will be considered and put forward to Cllr Scott as part of the budget process. Cllr Scott commented that until they get costs, they will not be able to confirm if this can go ahead as it is going to be a tough budget.

Cllr Sell commented on the situation on Grove Hill and how it has got worse not better. Dumper trucks are not adhering to the speed limits on Silver Street as well as other roads. What can be done about this? Can they put in a STOP order? He asked whether Cllr Scott buys into the vision to ban HGVs from the centre of Stansted.

Cllr Scott commented that he always buys into the vision.  Cllr Gooding stated that he has been trying to get something done about these trucks but it needs a multi-agency meeting to really decide what can be done.  If the planning consent for the developments that the lorries are servicing does not have a condition relating to the disposal of the waste, then there is not much that can be done.

Cllr Jones commented that the scheme for Grove Hill has been in discussion for at least 18 months and he agrees that Hall Road is the only alternative. What he finds hard to believe is that it takes so long to find a viable alternative and to confirm if the scheme is achievable. He understands that other surrounding parishes may not like the alternatives but if Parliament approves and grants the powers, they should be in a position to move things forward straightaway. He also commented on the footpath on Church Road and the S106 money being held which could be used to improve the path and its safety. He urged Cllr Scott to help the Parish Council to free the money to help.

Cllr Scott advised he will take this up.

Cllr Hogg spoke regarding the state that the roads are in and how much they have deteriorated in the last 7-10 years. He also commented that as the leader of a Rule 6 party, he wants to understand how Highways always put in an initial objection on large developments but then developers seem to offer a huge S106 benefit and then there is no final objection from Highways. Why do Highways not engage with Parish Councils before commenting on large developments?

Cllr Scott advised that S106 money does not go to Highways and that it goes to Uttlesford District Council which is something he wants to change. He offered to meet with the Parish Council to discuss any developments when they want to. Cllr Scott advised that he is managing a decline in Highways and the budget he has is not big enough to repair everything. If anything is dangerous then it will be fixed but if something is cosmetic, then they don’t have the funds to do anything.

Cllr Prior asked Cllr Scott to explain the Parliamentary Bill and how it worked.

Cllr Scott explained that it is for the whole of the UK but that each county has to apply for the powers if they wish to. Some do not wish to have the powers but Essex does, and they have applied.

A member of the public commented that surely haulage companies do not want the legal bills of challenging fines, but that the revenue from the fines would be useful to Highways.

Cllr Scott advised that if he is provided with a list of haulage companies who are seen repeatedly breaking the speed and weight restrictions, then he will contact them and ask for meeting, although he cannot insist on this.

One member of the public asked when a proper traffic count would be done in Stansted as the last data available was in 2016.

Cllr Scott confirmed that a survey was carried out last year. Cllr Gooding advised that a camera study was done as part of the visibility study recently and it provided a lot of information with regards to where traffic is coming from and going to. He will ask if the information can be made public. The member of the public requested that an actual traffic count take place and Cllr Scott agreed that he would ask for this to be done.

One member of the public asked why speed cameras couldn’t be installed to get extra revenue?

Cllr Scott advised that the revenue goes to the police and not to Highways.