Since February 8, the ancient footpath (twitten) behind Central School in Orchard Street has been closed to enable construction of four houses on a new development over the site of the former school canteen.
This twitten is incredibly well used, much to the surprise of the contractor and WSCC Highways officers.
It links Hawthorn Close in Parklands with Orchard Street and is the most direct and safest route for many Parklands residents to access the city centre as well as the local doctors and dentists in West Street and County Hall. Many mobility disadvantaged residents use this route.
In spite of the numerous concerns expressed by residents about this closure during the planning and early stages of housing construction it has remained closed.
My neighbour has now been informed by WSCC Highways that this will continue until mid-August in spite of only three weeks ago being told that it would be open by July 8.
There have been several meetings between the contractor Stirlings, WSCC officers, local councillor Louise Goldsmith and local resident associations at which the contractors promised to carry out works as efficiently as possible in order to open up the footpath as soon as possible. This has not happened.
This footpath could have been opened at any time in the last three months if the contractor had concentrated on completing Plot 4, the only house that abuts the footpath. But, for some inexplicable reason other than for the convenience of the contractor this has not happened.
The scaffolding next to Plot 4 remains in place and the footpath continues to be used as a storage area. This is an absolutely disgraceful situation.
No doubt the contractor will now claim that bad weather has caused this further delay but it is his method of working and lack of priority on completing Plot 4 that has been the main factor.
Both the contractor and WSCC Highways appear to have no consideration for the needs of the more vulnerable mobility disadvantaged local residents in and around Hawthorn Close.
I am not exaggerating when I say that several of these people have remained housebound because of this closure and are having to take taxis or rely on neighbours to take them to their dentist or doctor in West Street.
In the past they have been able to manage the direct route via the twitten but the alternative routes promoted by the developer and WSCC are just too far for them, and in the case of Northgate, too dangerous.
Far from being a designated ‘considerate contractor’; in my opinion they are clearly the opposite.
But, I am more disgusted with the inadequate and lame management of this project by WSCC (the local highway authority) and CDC (the local planning authority).
Throughout the planning and construction phases of this development both have failed to ensure that this closure has been minimal in spite of being made aware some six months ago of the potential footpath issues that now have come to fruition.
In addition, at the planning approval stage WSCC and CDC also failed to ensure that a sufficiently wide footpath will be provided at the end of construction of this housing development.
It will be very difficult for people with prams or wheelchairs to pass each other.
As a retired officer from WSCC Highways I have always resisted publicly criticising my former employer.
I regret that this is no longer the case.
I am also writing this on behalf of some of my neighbours who are disgusted by the way they are being treated but unlikely to wish to make their views known to the relevant authorities.
I just hope that Stirlings, WSCC and CDC have learnt some PR lessons from this disgraceful episode.