It might be the season of goodwill, but there’s little sign of a thaw in a frosty relationship between Horncastle Town Council and Lincolnshire County Council over highways issues,
In the latest twist to a long running saga, a Horncastle business owner has thrown his weight behind calls to improve road safety in the town.
As revealed in the News, the town council has set up its own highways working group to discuss a raft of issues.
Group members have drawn up an extensive list that they want to bring to the attention of officers at Lincolnshire County Council.
However, the authority – which is responsible for highways matters – has so far refused to meet with the working group members.
That has led to a couple of verbal spats among town councillors with mayor Coun Fiona Martin issuing an appeal for all members to ‘work together’.
Now, Richard Ingram-Hill , who owns a business in North Street, has sent town councillors a letter highlighting his concerns.
Mr Ingram-Hill spoke at this month’s town council meeting and said he was disappointed highways officers had rejected an invitation to attend because he had planned to raise several issues with them.
Mr Ingram-Hill handed the News a copy of his letter which he says highlights those issues – many of which are long-standing problems.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Ingram-Hill said he had already made an official complaint to the county council about what he termed ‘a lack of action.’
He also said he was prepared to write to the 0mbudsman if the authority did not respond to his satisfaction.
An ombudsman is a person who has been appointed to look into complaints about companies and organisations. They are independent and impartial .
One of Mr Ingram-Hill’s complaints concerns his call for a permanent pedestrian crossing on the A158, close to the junction of East Street and Foundry Street.
He claims the county council actually carried out a survey of his suggested site but says it was done on a Wednesday afternoon which he says is the quietest time of the week in Horncastle.
Mr Ingram-Hill said: “There are a lot of people who cross East Street, including children either going to Banovallum School or the primary school.
“I appreciate there is a ‘lollipop lady’ on duty but what is needed is a permanent ‘zebra’ crossing.
“But, what do the council do? They carry out a survey on a Wednesday afternoon before school leaving time.
“It is half day closing in Horncastle and there’s hardly anyone about and very few vehicles.
“No doubt they (county council) will say there is no requirement for a crossing.”
In his letter, Mr Ingram-Hill also mentions issues in Foundry Street.
He says recently introduced proposals to reduce the number of parking places could lead to more problems.
He points out Foundry Street is very busy with traffic using it to avoid delays on Boston Road– and ignoring residents’ only access signs in the process.
He adds vehicles have been clocked at up to speeds of 70mph while parked cars have reduced the street to effectively a ‘one way’ route.
He adds: “Parking on Foundry Street is a problem, as it is throughout Horncastle.
“Due to parked cars, Foundry Street has, excluding existing pull-ins, only a single carriageway and the speed bumps have no effect.
“The road is a main thoroughfare for children and parents going to and from schools and increasing parking places on this road, without proper and careful consideration, could result in a detrimental outcome.”
Mr Ingram-Hill goes on to call for a nearby car park – now restricted to fire service employees – to be made available for residents again.
He points out: “The car park is not used. The firemen on call out in an emergency understandably prefer to abandon their vehicles, as they always have done, outside the front of the station for ease, efficiency and speed.
“If LCC had been effective, they could have used the opportunity and finances spent on a car park that is not used to provide an amenity for the entire neighbourhood, with a section reserved for Fire Station use.
Other concerns Mr Ingram-Hill mentions in his letter include:
• A call for a pedestrian crossing in the vicinity of Conging Street and North Street;
• A ‘yellow box’ to be introduced on Conging Street at the junction with North Street so traffic can flow more efficiently;
• A bollard to be introduced at the junction of Conging Street and North Street to prevent vehicles driving on to the pavement and: ‘endangering pedestrians’;
• A new zebra crossing on North Street, close to the Bull Ring;
• A re-think of proposals to reducing parking on Stanhope Road and introducing a ‘chicane’ and width restriction. Removing parked vehicles would encourage higher speeds;
• A weight reduction to limit HGVs using Winceby Gardens;
• A re-think on proposals to reduce parking bays in West Street which would remove a ‘pinch point’ and lead to an increase in speeding vehicles near to a school (QEGS);
• A pedestrian crossing on South Street/Boston Road needs to be moved to a site where it is ‘no longer dangerous.’
With regard to that final issue, Mr Ingram-Hill writes: “It is absurd that LCC should belligerently insist that a road safety installation when not only all the residents of the town disagree with that opinion but there has also been recorded accidents and, as many people will confirm, countless near-misses between vehicles and pedestrians.”
Speaking at the town council meeting, Mr Ingram-Hill joined several other residents in a call for the highways officers to meet with the town council’s working group.
He said: “Hopefully, we (town council and residents) will have opportunity to work with the county council.”
Coun Martin revealed many of Mr Ingram-Hill’s concerns were already on the group’s own list.
She confirmed the group planned to finalise two lists – one concerning current matters , including repairs – and another concerning ‘aspirational projects’ like new crossings and weight restrictions.
She told residents that it was vital the town council worked with the county council – and not against them.
Mr Ingram-Hill replied: “Could I suggest a way forward, if they refuse to come to us, is to ask the town council what steps you intend to take to go to them and force them to break the impasse?”
Coun Martin countered: “I think working with people is the way forward – we need to work with them on all our issues.
“I have sent them an email on how we can do that.”
Town and county councillor Bill Aron said he would pass on Mr Ingram-Hill’s letter to the ‘relevant’ highways officers responsible for the Horncastle area.
Coun Aron has refused to co-operate with the new working group and has strongly defended his own record on dealing with highways matters.
He has stressed the county council is not refusing to meet with the town council and there are no regulations to force officers to attend a meeting with town or parish councils..
He also pointed out ‘procedures are in place’ to report highways issues,.
He added: “Routine issues can be reported via Fix My Street. Any complicated issues can be sent directly to me and I will ask the officers to come to a meeting – or have a site visit.
“The procedure is there. Everyone needs to recognise it and get used to using it.”
Coun Aron went on to deny any suggestions from some councillors and residents that the county council had effectively ‘blacklisted’ Horncastle after a row earlier this year between the town council and the county’s highways supremo Coun Richard Davies following his ‘no show’ at a meeting.
Coun Aron pointed out a number of projects had been completed in Horncastle and added most other towns in the county would be ‘ more than happy’ with the same levels of expenditure and improvements.
Karen Cassar, the county council’s assistant director for highways, said: “We are aware of the areas of concerns within Horncastle and are in process of arranging a walk-around with the county councillor to discuss the issues that have been raised.
“The most effective way for people to alert us to any highways concerns is to contact the local county councillor or report them through our online system at www.lincolnshire.gov.uk/fault reporting”
Ms Cassar did not comment on whether officers would be prepared to meet the town council’s working group at a future date – or attend a meeting of the full town council.