I wanted to update you on the situation with the A49 roadworks being undertaken in and around Peterstow by Highways England, in advance of the public meeting this evening.
Last Friday I convened an all parties meeting at St Peter's Church to discuss the roadworks. Present were Peter Mumford (Highways England Executive Director, Major Projects), Andrew Butterfield (Highways England, Service Delivery Midlands), Robert Jaffier (Highways England), Cllr John Harrington (Herefordshire Council, Cabinet member for Infrastructure), Clive Hall (Herefordshire Council), Cllr Rob Hunter and Cllr Junior Brandt (Peterstow Parish Council), and Cllr Elissa Swinglehurst (Ward Councillor).
It was a lively but ultimately I think constructive meeting. Together with the ward and parish councillors, I laid out the principal areas of concern, stressing the negative impact on local residents and businesses, the loss of earnings, the impact of daytime working, the lack of appropriate signage (especially the lack of "businesses open" signage), the negative reported attitude of some of the Chevron subcontractor staff, and the poor communications to date, especially about the timing, phasing and purpose of the works.
Peter Mumford, who is the number three person at Highways England and ultimately responsible for the works, was clear in apologising for the disturbance and impact. They had scheduled the works in August because their traffic surveys showed this had the lowest level of usage.
Andrew Butterfield of HE said that the project had been affected at the start by a burst water main and by the very hot weather, and some early work had had to be redone to ensure its quality. As a result of this they had had to extend the projected completion date for the project to 30 August 2019.
There was a strong negative reaction to this news. I and the councillors made clear that this was not acceptable. There should under no circumstances be any further extension, and if at all possible project completion should come before August 30th. All the more so since the Ross Cider Festival would be taking place right off the A49 in and around the Yew Tree Inn on August 30th-September 1st.
Addressing the key points, Highways England said:
- Additional workmen/resources have been put on the job to ensure that timescales are now maintained.
- They would explore the possibility of additional workforce for night time working and discuss with Kier if the schedule can be changed to accommodate night time working on parts of the road away from housing.
- They believed the attitude of Chevron staff at the closure points had improved, but that there must be a mutual respect on both sides for the duration of the works.
- They would review the signage on the A49 and reconfigure it, installing additional signage where needed indicating that the road is closed to a certain point and that businesses are open as usual.
- They would also review the traffic management at Wilton roundabout to reduce or eliminate unnecessary queuing of traffic, to show the correct lane closure and to make clear that access to properties and businesses is maintained.
- They would improve and increase local communications with regard to the proposed pedestrian crossing south of Harewood End, to make clear the new configuration and that this was being installed to address a road safety issue.
- They would send an updated newsletter for local businesses and residents to inform them about the purpose, scope, timing, and progress of the works.
- They noted that the bus service continues to operate throughout the works.
Rob Hunter and Junior Brandt of Peterstow Parish Council undertook to work with Kier/HE to detail local businesses along the A49 on a map in order to assist the workmen at the closure points.
Several other issues were also discussed:
- Whether temporarily under-utilised contractor staff could not be deployed to carry out litter picks, strimming highway verges etc., given the road was being closed.
- Whether there was scope to address the adverse camber on the footpath in Peterstow village while HE contractors were on site.
Despite the short timescales involved, I have strongly encouraged Highways England to try to make progress on these issues in advance of the public meeting this evening. This is being held at 6 pm at St Peter's Church in Peterstow. There will be representation from Highways England and Herefordshire Council as well as local councillors, plus a member of my team. All are welcome.
With all good wishes, as ever,