|Toilet and all|
Once the work started, it was clear just how much disruption this would entail. My house is one of only two in our street without a carport. As you can see from the adjacent picture, it was not only on street parking that was affected. In fact cars couldn't get in or out of driveways for a period. For those with limited access or requiring wheelchairs (several of my neighbours are in this position) there were a couple of days when they were effectively trapped.
Some of our neighbours also had the pleasure of public toilets for the workmen outside their front doors. We also had the joy of numerous early morning deliveries. The one shown was at 07:30, despite the council telling us that the earliest deliveries would be at 8am. Although this was disturbing and rather annoying, it did at least cause less disruption than some of the later deliveries when the road was busier. We have a busy nursery in our road and we've had gridlock on a couple of occasions.
Anyway our side of the road has been done.The contractors have done a fine job. Many of my neighbours (who I have found out are avid readers of the blog) have been highly impressed by the new surface. It is very smooth. Previously, the large paving slabs outside of peoples homes with carports were heavily cracked and quite a few had potential trip hazards, these have been replaced with small bricks, less likely to break. Clearly £50 million is a huge sum to spend. Some people have suggested to me that at this time, this is the wrong way to spend this.
Of course, there will be a thousand things that have been cut that this £50 million could be quite sensibly spent to maintain but I had a chat with one of our Conservative Councillors who explained the way the finances of this worked. I have to agree with him that in this case, the decision was a sensible and sound one. He suggested that it may be helpful to explain this.
This is an infrastructure project. Many of the pavements in Barnet have been negected for years. The council has to field compensation claims from people who have accidents and injure themselves and have a duty of care to ensure that any potential hazard is fixed. If a hazard is known by the council and a person injures themselves, the claim has an aggrevating factor as it becomes preventable and the council can be deemed negligent. Fixing pavements on an ad hoc/piecemeal way is expensive and inefficient. At present, interest rates are low and local authorities can borrow money at very reasonable rates for infrastructure projects using long term loans. The costs of servicing such loans is more than met by the savings from not having to do piecemeal patch ups.
All in all, it is a win/win. We have a safer, smoother pavement. Fewer people trip over and hurt themeselves, the council spends less on maintenance, meaning that the the debt is easily serviceable. I am a fan of infrastructure projects such as this which have a sound business case. I have no issue with public sector debt, when it is used for projects that improve our environment.
There are a few minor gripes, the parking restrictions seem to be a bit OTT. Whilst it is clear that contractors need access to where they are working, at times it seems that half the street is cordoned off, when there is little need or justification. It would also have been better if the council had informed residents of exactly when they'd have no/restricted to their house. Saying "work will go on over an 18 week period" is not exactly helpful.
Finally a quick word to compliment the contractors on their good humour and manners. Despite the huge disruption, they have done a fine job.