U-turn over £40k crossing

Blakelock Gardens pedestrian crossing.
Blakelock Gardens pedestrian crossing.

A CASH-STRAPPED council spent £43,000 installing road safety measures – only to remove them just two years later at a further cost of £10,000 to the taxpayer.

Hartlepool Borough Council has faced huge cuts in recent years that have seen services slashed and jobs lost, but has been accused of wasting £53,000 to build and then remove the controversial pedestrian crossing. The council, which is facing cuts of almost £6m in the 2013/14 financial year, installed the crossing in Blakelock Gardens, in March 2011, at a cost of £40,000 in a bid to improve safety.

Blakelock Gardens pedestrian crossing.

Blakelock Gardens pedestrian crossing.

But it will be removed, at a further expense of £10,000, after concerns from residents living close by that it was actually making the road more dangerous and that people were not using it.

A further £3,000 had already been spent on original plans to restrict left turns out of Brinkburn Road.

But these were shelved in 2011 after it was decided to move the puffin crossing further down Blakelock Gardens away from the busy junction.

Hartlepool Mayor Stuart Drummond made the U-turn decision and delighted residents say common sense has “prevailed”, but slammed the scheme as a waste of money in the first place.

Blakelock Gardens pedestrian crossing.

Blakelock Gardens pedestrian crossing.

The crossing will be removed and there are also plans to introduce a 20mph speed limit plus other traffic calming measures, subject to consultation.

Mayor Drummond, portfolio holder for regeneration and neighbourhoods, said he was not involved in the original decision of the previous portfolio holder, but added: “I’m sure the crossing was put in for good reason at the time and it was trying to solve a problem.

“We have tried it, but it does not seem to be working.”

At the meeting officers had been looking to introduce double yellow lines and a limited waiting parking bay in a section of Blakelock Gardens, close to the crossing to improve safety.

But some residents and businesses said they wanted to see the crossing removed altogether because they claim it is causing additional problems around parking issues, drives being obstructed, speeding vehicles and congestion.

Residents told Mayor Drummond there had been four accidents in the street in the past year and that the road was safer before the crossing was there.

Self-employed ceramic tiler Peter McPherson, 54, of Blakelock Gardens, said: “Common sense has finally prevailed.

“It was a total waste of money in the first place, but they didn’t listen.

“We are just pleased it is being removed.”

Conservative group leader Ray Wells added: “This is a perfect example of a public waste of money.

“If this was a private company somebody would have been sacked.”

Previously, officers had said they recognise residents’ concerns, but said the crossing is a “valuable” road safety measure and was campaigned for by other local people.

Mayor Drummond said it had “divided residents” and he has met with people living in the area and also been at different times of the day and night.

He added: “When we were there, one person used it while four or five others crossed further down and it seems people are just ignoring it.

“Ultimately road safety has to be the prime concern and trying to implement a 20mph speed limit will help and we will also consider other traffic calming.”

Problems with parking controls in the street date back to April 2010 when plans for the puffin crossing, including the left turn ban, were originally approved. The aim was to have the crossing close to the junction to encourage more people to use it, but in December that year, work was halted after complaints about the left turn ban.

Instead, in March 2011 after further consultation, it was agreed to move the crossing further east and remove the left turn ban.

Transport chiefs say the crossing cost around £40,000 and the Central Neighbourhood Consultative Forum contributed £15,000 and the Town Centre Communities NAP Forum contributed £10,000.