Friday, 1 June 2007

My first ward surgery

10am in the North Road entrance of Morrison's supermarket, we set up our table and chairs, stick up our notices around the store and wait for business. Would anyone come?

Yes, is the answer: eight local residents keep us busy for the whole hour and a half.

First up was a lady complaining about overgrown hedges and dog mess on a local footpath. We promise to take up the matter with Street Scene.

Then a lady comes over with a problem in Skerne Park. We take her name, address and phone number, make a note of her problem and promise to send the details over to our councillor in Park East, who can help her out.

Then a regular attender comes over to point out that the Council still haven't done anything about a blocked gully and sunken road beside a bus stop. This causes flooding and buses splash the water over those in the queue. We then have a long conversation about buses and bus stops across the town. Some pavements have now been raised up and some haven't. This gentleman seems to have an encyclopedic knowledge of the bus stops of Darlington.

Our fourth visitor is an elderly gentleman who lives in William Street, where we went on a walkabout on Wednesday. We'd missed his communal garden, which is hidden away behind a fence. Apparently the Council haven't been there for two years and the three spindly rose bushes are being swamped by weeds. I add it to the list of jobs that need doing in Rise Carr.

Then we have a lady from Westmoreland Street complaining about the poor state of the back lanes, which have potholes and ruts, and also about the speed at which buses and vans travel down the street, partcularly as many kids play on the pavement here. Maybe these streets would benefit from being added to Cllr Wallis's 20mph scheme. The trouble is, this requires speed bumps and ramps, and not everyone likes them. In principle, however, traffic in residential street like these should have more restrictions placed on their speed.

Next we hear a complaint about cars being offered for sale on North Road, which looks untidy and also blocks the access of one of our residents, who needs space outside her house for social services transport to park up when they collect and return her husband. We know there is new legislation available to deal with this problem, which is one we are faced with the length of North Road. Cllr Harker has promised in the past to take action against these traders, but so far there doesn't seem to have been any action. We promise to chase him up about it and also see if some sort of No Parking sign would be possible outside her house (though previous requests along these lines have fallen on deaf ears in the Council).

A lady from Lock Street comes over to tell us about a fall she had recently, caused by a poorly maintained pavement in front of her house. Apparently someone at the Council promised her that the paving flags would be replaced by tarmac in April 2007, but nothing has been done yet.
We promise to find out what's going on.

Then a lady asks whether we can do anything to help her daughter and two young children get a council house in the North Road area. So far she's been offered two properties: one across town in a rundown area and one nearby in Rise Carr. Neither were acceptable, however, so she's still waiting. There's really nothing we can do to help her: there's a points system and rules to adhere to, but we promise to write to the appropriate department and ask them to look at her case to see if something suitable locally can be found, and what the likely timetable is.

And so ends my first surgery. I have my first four pieces of casework: now I've got to negotiate the unfathomable bureaucracy of Darlington Borough Council to find out who to approach about these issues. I'll let you know how I get on!


miketually said...

A 20mph zone doesn't have to have speed bumps.

As I understand it, a Council can impose a 20mph speed limit if the average speed of vehicles on the road is below 24mph (I'm not 100% on how the average is calculated - I think at the moment it needs to be 85% of vehicles below 24mph, but new guidance is to change it to the mean speed of vehicles using the road).

If the average speed is above 24mph, speed limiting measures (such as speed bumps and pinch points) can be used to try to artificially reduce the average speed in order that a 20mph limit can be imposed.

The reason the council take's the approach that speed bumps are required, is that Durham police will not support 20mph zones without speed limiting measures being put in place.

Of course, it's not the police's job to set speed limits, merely to enforce them...

miketually said...

Seemingly, Portsmouth can implement a city wide 20 MPH zone, but we can't...

Mike Barker said...

I have to say, I don't think a blanket 20mph limit is possible, particularly on the arterial roads. However, I would support moves to widen the use of 20mph limits in residential areas across the town.
We need to reclaim the streets for people, not cars (starting with Stanhope Road!).

miketually said...

I think you're probably right, but I think that pretty much every road in the town other than the main arterial roads could be given a 20mph limit.

It has been proposed that Abbey Road and Duke Street be given a 20mph speed limit and it would make sense to me to extend that to the side roads which connect to these streets, so you may get a 20 limit on Stanhope Road.