Submitted by Editor on Fri, 05/10/2018 - 10:26

As reported in Issue 278, for the last few nights, roadworks at the Rodney Street/Broughton Road junction have been in full swing.

The scene has been characterised by vast machines ripping up the carriageway surface, boiling tarmac and horrendous fumes, flashing lights, and blinding floodlights. ‘The whole building shakes,' one neighbour told us. ‘It's like being in the middle of the St James excavations or a special kind of Hades.’ 

Many locals find it incredible that such works are being carried out at night, when hundreds of people are trying to sleep. Many feel that drivers, who pass through in a few minutes, are being prioritised over the people who actually live here.

Copied below are two recent emails sent to the Council by an exasperated resident. 

We thought they would strike a chord with others living in the area, and so reproduce them in full but for the names of the author and the official to whom it was sent. We do not have permission to reproduce the official's response(s).

Email 1: 3 October

I wish to complain in the strongest possible terms about the intolerable levels of noise and disturbance currently being experienced during night-time road resurfacing at the junction of Rodney St and Broughton Rd, which is being carried out from 7pm until 4am. 

This seems an extraordinary timetable. Residents did receive a letter from Raymond Preston, Senior Engineer, informing us of this timetable and saying that the work was being carried out during these hours ‘to accommodate business opening hours, minimise delays during the day and complete the works sooner’.

There is no mention of the many hundreds of residents living in the tenements directly above the works who are being extremely adversely affected. (At my own address on Rodney Street, there are tenements on both sides of the road, five storeys high, and these walls also seem to catch and amplify the noise. My own bedroom is directly above the road, as is the case in many of the flats.)

We were assured that ‘noise level restrictions’ would be in place after 23.00 hours. What this seems to mean in practice is that pneumatic drilling stops at that time. There is still a very high level of noise which MUST breach acceptable levels – I would like this measured – from up to three giant machines with revolving, loudly beeping lights (and additional disturbance from extra floodlighting), workers shouting to each other etc. 

Sleep has been impossible the last two nights. I tried to find somewhere else to stay last night, in despair, but could not at the last minute. Health and wellbeing are being severely compromised.  

Roadworks elsewhere in the city are carried out during the day – I know this because of the high number of bus diversions. I'm not sure why Rodney Street, a built-up residential street has been singled out for this night-time torture, and when the works seem to be a matter of resurfacing (not replacing utilities or otherwise improving the junction – widening pavements or similar.) 

We were told in the letter that the work will take six nights. (We were originally told the whole business would take 7 weeks and we are now into the fourth month.) If that is the case, I understand it is relatively short term. However, after two completely sleepless nights, I'm not sure I can face another four.

I am aware that there is perhaps little that can be done at this stage. I do request that decibel levels be monitored and I do request that such highly disruptive work until 4am should simply not be considered an option in an area where so many people actually live – that the needs of residents be given priority.

Email 2: 5 October

I am sorry to be back in touch with you and even more sorry that your assurances in your message of yesterday have proven to be of little validity – and even more sorry that I have had yet another sleepless tormented night due to roadworks, heavy machinery and workmen shouting loudly under my window until AFTER 4 am. 

I am not sure which technical procedures, as outlined by yourself in your last message, were not taking place last night. All I know is that very heavy-duty machinery and a large gang of workmen were creating massive disruption – noise, light, fumes, shouting – in profoundly antisocial hours.

In despair, I went downstairs to speak to the foreman shortly before 3am. I was extremely polite and explained I was not blaming any individual currently at work but pointed out my bedroom window directly above and the impossibility of sleep. The person in charge said they would they would be there for at least another hour and back the next night. 

I took some photos to show the scale of the machines involved, the lighting and the number of people working. At this point the workmen became hostile and belligerent and took out their own phones to photograph me. I should point out I am a 60-year-old female who was entirely on my own in front of a large gang of workmen. 

I then, in further despair, phoned the council and, twice, the police, begging the latter to intervene, pointing out that any such level of unacceptable disturbance would normally be shut down by them. My last call was after 4am, when the work was continuing – admittedly not for long, probably until about 4.15am but by that time each second seemed like an eternity. 

The response was always the same – this work had been approved in advance and there was nothing they could do as it was ‘emergency essential repairs’. It is none of the above. It is not emergency, it is not essential and it is not repairs. The road under my window being ‘resurfaced’ last night/this morning is a very small slip road, where cars can choose to turn left immediately before the main traffic lights at the Rodney Street, Broughton Road, Eyre Place junction. There are about five small businesses at ground level – an optician, a florist, a coffee shop, a therapy spa and a barber – and above those many dozens of tenement flats. There are communal bins. There are no potholes or other issues. Those of us who live here would prefer fewer, not more, vehicles using this road. 

It is inconceivable to me why this small section of residential road required to be resurfaced until after 4am. I would ask please to know the cost of these works – cuts to council budgets are very much in the news currently and to have that many people working at those hours of night, to no apparent purpose, must be very expensive at a time of threatened cuts to essential services. 

My health has suffered greatly as a result of all of this. I intend to pursue this further but in the meantime would welcome a specific response as to the cost, exact purpose and inexplicable timing of these works.

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I wish to register my concern regarding the length of time that was allocated for the resurfacing work at the junction of Broughton Road and Rodney St, and the consequent high levels of disruption. This seems totally disproportionate for the size of the project; much of the time, very little work actually appeared to be taking place.

There are obviously very real economic and human costs associated with any such traffic disruption, in terms of extra time and fuel expended – not to mention pollution. Are these not assessed and factored into the cost of a project such as this? Moreover would not a more intensive work schedule significantly reduce the time that the project takes, and any increased costs that this would involve be more than offset by the savings aggregated across the many road users that are affected? Even though any added costs to The Council would have to found from somewhere, for example an increment on Council Tax,  would this not ultimately result in lower costs, financial and otherwise, borne by road users and the community in general?

Also, were there not times when barriers and temporary lights could be removed or reconfigured, not least during weekends and for the many hours of the day when work was not actually taking place?

Although this work will soon be completed, if not so already, the same question must be asked of the planning and specification of road works in general around The City.
John Riley
Powderhall Village