West Bank

Winster, Derbyshire

An accident waiting to happen?

People involved
(or who ought to be involved)

Member of Parliament:
Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP
02072 193511    
 patrick.mcloughlin.mp@parliament.uk

Derbyshire County Council
 Roads/Highways:  http://www.derbyshire.gov.uk/transport_roads/roads_traffic/default.asp

Gritting news:  http://www.derbyshire.gov.uk/transport_roads/roads_traffic/road_maintenance/snow_info/gritting/default.asp
(to find gritting priorities click on 'routes' information for High Peak. (pdf file)

County Councillor
Simon Spencer
simon.spencer@derbyshire.gov.uk
http://www.derbyshire.gov.uk/council/councillors/councillor_profiles/simon_spencer.asp 

 Derbyshire Dales District Councillor
Colin Swindell
colin.swindell@derbyshiredales.gov.uk

Winster Parish Council
parishchair@winster.org

Peak District National Park
(while the Peak Park is not directly involved with Highways, Winster is a Conservation Area
with a large number of Listed Buildings.)

http://www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/about-us

Members:
 Cllr Patrick Brady  01298 85798
patrick.brady@peakdistrict.gov.uk

Cllr David Chapman  01298 85067
david.chapman@peakdistrict.gov.uk

A selection of letters
(Note dates!)

"Sometimes I sit and think, and sometimes I just sit".  (Mark Twain)

 

The following selection is by no means exhaustive, but does give the indication
that local residents have been trying to get something done
for at least the last 18 years.

 

 

To/From Cllr Dean Collins, 'Cabinet Member for Highways, Transport & Infrastructure'

26.6.15
Dear Mr Collins
I have today received your letter of 25th June. My reply is below.
regards
--------------------

Cllr Dean Collins
Highways & Transport Derbyshire County Council Matlock.
Your ref:
DC/SB/LAB3545/8160132

 

Dear Mr Collins

West Bank, Winster

I am in receipt of your written reply to my original email to you of 22.5.15

I appreciate that you are very busy and that the problems faced here on West Bank must seem paltry when
you are responsible for highways throughout the County.

Unfortunately your reply brings little comfort and, in my opinion, contains errors with which I intend to deal below.

To do this I will answer your reply at the relevant points therein. Your original text is in italics.

 
I refer to your recent enquiry. Whilst I appreciate your concerns about this matter, there have been numerous complications with this job,
not the least of which was the requirement for the wall to be rebuilt. There have been objections and site-specific difficulties with the
erection of the sign, and due to very limited staff resources it has not been possible to give this work priority over other more urgent work.


I am well aware of the difficulties. The rebuilding of the relevant wall was completed months ago, although I understand the householder
has raised further objections to the type/placement of the projected "HGV route" sign.
Since that sign is to be placed on the footpath (ie Highway) and not on his land there would seem no grounds for objections.

It is understandable that you wish to see the sign and markings provided as soon as possible, however both of these measures
are advisory only and are being provided to complement the existing statutory weight restriction signs.

Your text is confusing. Let us be clear: there are two orders for signs. One (as above) at the bottom of West Bank, and the other
being white-line markings on the B5056 at the top of West Bank. This latter marking has been "on order" for at least 15 months.
Your reference to "very limited staff resources" may or may not be accurate in this case since it is my
understanding that the white-lining work should have been undertaken by contractors. Do they have staff shortages too?
It is also very clear that the "statutory" signs are inadequate, a fact of which you have been made aware on several occasions. See below.

The statutory signs should be the only signs required as it has become clear from the recent exercise undertaken by
Trading Standards that the majority of the vehicles found contravening the restriction were local and were also
found to be contravening many other restrictions in North Derbyshire, consequently the problem is largely
due to lack of complying with the restriction rather than drivers not being aware of the restriction. Therefore the additional
sign and marking are not likely to make a significant difference to the contraventions in this area,
but hopefully they should assist, and direct those drivers new to the area along the correct route for HGVs through the village.


It may be that the statutory signs are the only ones officially required. However, it has been pointed out to you and others on
numerous occasions that the 3.5t signs both at the top and bottom of West Bank are badly sited and, whilst that may be legal,
they are of absolutely no help. That is why additional signage and/or re-positioning have been suggested.

It may well be that Trading Standards have carried out a general exercise over a wider area which shows the origins vehicles.
However your suggestion that the majority of vehicles on West Bank are of local origin is utter bunkum.
This statement only makes sense if one takes the meaning of "local" as being somewhere in the UK!
For your information I have checked the reports made of HGVs on West Bank from January 2015 to May 2015.
Of the 179 HGVs photographed
156 were not of local origin. (ie within the Matlock/Bakewell/Wirksworth etc area).
In other words 87% of vehicles reported on West Bank are not of local origin.

[ Jan 46 reports/43 not local; Feb 36 reports/32 not local; March 42 reports/36 not local;
April 30 reports/ 23 not local; May 46 reports/43 not local]

So your statement above is, to say the least, inaccurate. Should you wish to check my argument you are welcome
to visit
http://www.winsterwestbank.co.uk/  and look at both "naughty HGVs" and "archives".

I also would point out that Chesterfield Magistrates do not appear to agree with your point above, since large fines
have been brought on a number of HGV drivers who are NOT local. I understand there are more cases to come.

There is currently a further problem with the provision of this sign, which has been raised by the sign erector,
it is hoped that this will be overcome in the near future, but I am unfortunately not at present able to give you a date for when
this issue will be resolved. I apologise for the continued delay with this job, and assure you that it will be completed as soon as possible.


Which to the local population reads: "We are not trying very hard".
Presumably this is the sign at the bottom of West Bank? Your text is unclear.
Who is the "sign erector" - DCC or contractor?

Yours sincerely
Councillor Dean Collins
Cabinet Member for Highways, Transport and Infrastructure


The continued delays and obfuscations over what are in fact two very simple jobs to improve the lot of
residents on West Bank do the County Council no credit at all.
It is appreciated that these are tiny matters for such an important person to deal with, however the County
having made decisions on this over a year ago really ought to get the job done.
If it takes the Chairman of Highways to rattle some cages then perhaps you will oblige.  Soonest.


 

Dear Mr Collins
On 22nd May I sent you the email below.
Would you be so kind as to reply to the points made therein, especially to the placement of the road signs which were ordered over a year ago.
Or would you prefer I submit a FOI request for that information?
Thank you
------------------

22 May
Dear Mr Collins

West Bank, Winster

You may recall our various communications regarding West Bank.
I have received a very interesting letter from Trading Standards, a copy of which is attached.
this gist is:

WEIGHT RESTRICTION ENFORCEMENT IN DERBYSHIRE
WEIGHT RESTRICTION: WEST BANK, WINSTER
 
I am writing to acknowledge receipt of the information you have provided during the past financial year (2014-15) in relation to HGVs contravening
 the above restriction and thought you would be interested to hear about the various actions that were taken by this Service as a result:-
 
Complaints received (where vehicles identified): 242 
Complaints received (no registration number):  12*
No action possible (not traceable/foreign/3.5 tonne):  28
Vehicles gaining legitimate access:  2
Advice letters sent to operators:  194
Advice emails sent to operators:  12*
Formal action taken: 112 
 
Formal actions taken �
Decision pending:  1
Warning Letters (driver &/or operator): 122
Simple Cautions issued:  4
Prosecutions taken:  5  (3 drivers fined a total of �857 with costs of �345;
2 drivers appearing in court on 10/6/15)
---------------------

However, this is not the entire story.
Since May 2014 there have in fact been 437 HGVs photographed - not all are reported to Trading Standards for various reasons, such as no identification etc -
of which a few are, as above, legitimate. This does not include vehicles which are NOT photographed
(some weekends, evenings etc) so the total is likely to be nearer 500.

You should be aware that in February 2014 an order was placed by Highways 1) to provide a proper 'alternative route' sign at the bottom of West Bank,
and 2) to provide white lining 'no HGV' or similar at the top of West Bank.
(The siting of actual 3.5t signs at both top and bottom is still also a cause of these problems.)

Neither of these orders has been carried out. There has been a problem with the positioning of the sign at the bottom of West Bank due
to a dangerous wall, but that wall was rebuilt months ago. There remains no indication of when the white lining job will be done.

I am sure you would agree that 15 months is an awful long time for a couple of very simple (and not expensive) jobs to be carried out
and I would be most obliged if you could give me an indication of when they might be done.

HGV's both local and non-local and of all classes continue to breach the Weight Restrictions with some impunity. Trading Standards have so far done
an excellent job in bringing prosecutions and we continue to be in their debt. However, it would surely be more useful to reduce the
workload on TS by installing the signs promised so long ago.  Whilst this would, no doubt, not prevent all incursions it would certainly reduce
them and at the same time give the authorities more teeth with which to bring actions.

In the meantime local residents continue to fear for their safety and of the possibilities of damage to vehicles and property.

I look forward to your early and constructive reply.

regards

West Bank
Winster

http://www.winsterwestbank.co.uk/

 To:- Winster Parish Council     30.11.05

Dear,

Weight limit West Bank

With regard to your reply of 29th Nov received today it would appear that the Parish is prepared to do nothing at all to relieve this situation.

You refer to the original 3T weight limit as being unladen. If you care to read the relevant order you will see it in fact refers to a gross weight.
Similarly we have heard on a number of occasions that the 3T signs are to be removed "within the next few weeks".

As far back as October 1998 (letter Derbyshire Constabulary to Patrick McGloughlin MP) and later on 12 March 2002 in a letter to
Mr XXX which states:
"There is no intention of relaxing the restrictions where this would be inappropriate, but alternative measures
(eg width limit) may be substituted at locations where it is the narrowness of the road that is the problem".

If these signs are to be removed why were they recently replaced (at some cost) both on West Bank and East Bank?

Similarly in a letter to you of 10 November DCC admit to updating the two Weight Limit Orders concerned and go on to say that
Mssrs XXXX will be informed of suitable alternatives that their vehicles "can legally use and that
enforcement will be carried out
once the new orders are in place".
This implies that DCC consider the matter rather more important than your letter suggests.

...............For the record this is not a vendetta against one particular vehicle. The fact is that the (various) weight limits are being abused by
heavy vehicles every single day, and despite a long campaign and a few successes the situation continues to deteriorate.
The Parish could, if it wished, take a lead on this matter. It does not appear to want to do so.

Mssrs XXXX have been one of the main offenders but are by no means alone. It would appear that until one of these overweight vehicles
is the cause of damage or injury the Parish is content to turn a blind eye.

Emails

25 May 2006
Dear  
Firstly, I entirely agree with your reasons that East and West Bank need to be weight restricted. The dilemma is however that the existing 3 tonne limits are,
I can assure you, unenforceable and local heavy goods vehicle drivers obviously know about this and will continue to abuse the restriction until an enforceable
limit is provided. Under current legislation a 7.5 tonne (except for access) limit is the minimum one that can be provided to prevent through traffic unless the
Department for Transport agree that the County Council are able to special exception for the limits in Winster village. I have agreed with the Parish Council that
I will firstly approach the Department for Transport to ask if they would support such an application for a departure from standards. If the Department for Transport
fail to support an application for a 3 tonne (except for access) limit, the question would be do we continue with something that is unenforceable or do we take the view
that something eg a 7.5 tonne (except for access) enforceable limit is better than leaving the situation as it is now.

Yours,
 Simon Tranter
Traffic & Safety Manager  [Derbyshire County Council]

---------

25 May 2006

I do of course appreciate that there is another 7.5 tonne (except for access) limit which covers the whole area. This is another problem to me in that changes
in legislation means that this is yet another limit which is currently in the process of being changed. In this case it is a fairly straight forward amendment in case
of the wording within the Order which will allow our Trading Standards Officers and indeed the Police to continue with enforcement, but nevertheless we need
to go through quite a time consuming legal process to get it changed. As you know, abuse of vehicles travelling from beyond the extent of the outer limit is
fairly straight forward, but we will of course still I feel need some type of control on East and West Bank to encourage those heavy goods vehicles permitted
into the area for access reasons to continue along the "B" classified route to miss East and West Bank.

 
I hope this information helps and I will of course endeavour the make the necessary amendments as soon as is practicable.
 
Yours, 
Simon Tranter

Thu, 12 Nov 2009  (from local police)
Subject: Conversation with Highways

Hi  
I've spoken to Mark Sloan at Highways this afternoon and he assures me, after some discussion, that he will ensure the sign at the bottom of West Bank
is moved as a matter of urgency.
 
I've also pointed out the shortcomings of the sign at the top and he will also be looking at that one.

17 Sept 2011
(From Parish Council)
Regarding the second issue you raised, the County Council has advised that the Traffic and Road Safety Section will look into your request
 that consideration be given to relocating the 3.5T sign to make it more obvious to HGV's approaching West Bank from Elton Road and Main Street.

To Parish Council - Subject: Re: Signage, West Bank

With regard to your note below, and in acknowledgement that proper records must be kept, I would correct your second para.
It is not MY request that the sign be moved (ie made properly visible to oncoming drivers). In fact the request was made some time ago by the police
in June 2009, again in Sept 2009 and again in Nov 2009. A copy of the message from 12.11.2009 is below.

There have been other requests since.

This is not to say I do not wholeheartedly agree with the request.

--------------

To Parish Council

(c.c.Simon Spencer, Colin Swindell and others)

21 Nov 13

Dear [Chairman]
 
It is now over six months since... we went to the trouble and expense of producing an illustrated booklet to demonstrate the problems and damage
caused by heavy vehicles illegally using West Bank and by vehicles skidding on ice and packed snow when the road has not been adequately cleared and gritted.
 
You will recall that we had a site meeting involving yourself, Councillor Spencer, Councillor Swindell, amongst others.

You may remember that one part of the boundary wall of my house was seriously damaged by a skidding vehicle at Christmas 2010, necessitating
a complete rebuild in the summer of 2011 at a cost of just under £2000.  The other part of  the boundary wall was seriously damaged by an articulated
lorry (French registration) in the summer of 2012.  As I write, Sam Cooper and his team are at last in the process of completely rebuilding this wall.  
The cost is £3,120 - which is just under double what I received from my house insurers. 
In both of these cases, it was not possible to obtain redress from the owners or drivers of the vehicles concerned
(despite the efforts of the Motor Insurers Bureau), as one left promptly without leaving a forwarding address and the other left the country.

So this means that the cost of repairing these 2 sections of wall has amounted to approx £5,000.  Of this, almost £2000 has been a direct cost to me.
(Insurers now pay out on the basis of their assessment of the cost and I have twice had to absorb the "excess" amount stipulated in the policy.)
There is also the hidden cost that:-
a) insurers raise premiums on the incidence of past claims history and
b) the risk that they might decline to insure at all, or impose special  restrictions. 
I have every reason to expect that my boundary wall will be damaged yet again at any time.

Since our meeting when we "walked West Bank" together there have been several other incidents.  Yesterday, as I was leaving the house,
yet another very large and long articulated lorry coming down West Bank got stuck outside my house for about 10 minutes. 
As usual in these circumstances, I pointed out politely to the driver that he was driving illegally.  His (very reasonable) riposte was that he could
not see the signs until, with a vehicle that size, he was beyond the point of no return.

There is no evidence to show that anything has been done to improve the situation or any hint that any action is planned. 
I seem to remember that, at the meeting last April, promises were made by Councillor Spencer that snow clearing and gritting on West Bank would be
given higher priority in future.  What reason is there to expect that any action has been taken about this too?

At that site  meeting, there seemed to be a lot of buck-passing.  Councillor Spencer suggested that the initiative should come from the Parish Council
to draft a scheme for improved signage, or other means of deterring lorries over 3.5 tonnes from coming down West Bank. 
That would then be submitted to Highways for consideration.  There was silence from the Parish Council representatives.  As far as we residents of
West Bank are concerned, the silence has continued on all sides, but the lorries still come and the damage continues. 
A couple of months ago, it was damage done to the "Old Shoulder of Mutton" opposite us.  Both houses are Grade 2 listed buildings
- including my boundary wall - which has also suffered further damage from an articulated lorry earlier this year.

So, my questions are:-
Have all the members of the Parish Council been made aware of this problem? 
Has this matter been considered and discussed at a Parish Council meeting.
If so, what was the outcome? 
If not, why not? 

(As I recall, there was a great deal of hot air expended at Parish Council meetings over the relatively trivial issue of parking on the lane
across the common.  This is a matter that offends the sensibilities of a few residents.  By contrast, the West Bank issue is about actual damage and road safety).

In the event of further damage, can I claim redress from the Parish, District or County Councils due to their failure to act.
If another lorry damages my wall, am I in my rights if I prevent the lorry from leaving the scene until the police have arrived and
 recorded the incident and interviewed the driver?

I will await a reply with great interest.

26 Nov 2013

From: "Spencer,Simon (Elected Member)" <Simon.Spencer@derbyshire.gov.uk>

Dear XX
 
I have read your email to [Chairman, Parish Council] regarding the issues you raised with me several months ago, i.e. signage and winter gritting on West Bank.
 
I did agree to review the situation on West Bank following the election, but unfortunately, with the change of administration at County Hall,
I am no longer in a position to do so. 
I will continue to make representations with regards to these issues with the Strategic Director.  However I don't appear to have received
representations from the parish council as we agreed
, as this will undoubtedly help in any discussions.
 
Regards,
Councillor Spencer
 
Dictated by Cllr Spencer and sent in his absence

Latest from our Parish Council
Additional comments in red!

WINSTER PARISH COUNCIL

 13th December 2013

 Dear

 West Bank 

I refer to your email of 21st November regarding the illegal use by HGVs and winter maintenance on West Bank and my acknowledgement of that
message dated 28
th November. Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding to the points raised at the site meeting earlier this year,
which is primarily down to having to consult with the principal
authority. 
That site meeting was in APRIL - how long does it take to consult?

The comprehensive report produced by [local residents] was received at the May meeting of the Parish Council and a letter supporting the resident’s [sic]
concerns was sent to DCC.

Following that, and the change in administration at County Hall, Cllr Swindell (DDDC), Cllr Long and myself met on site with Cllr Botham to appraise him
of the concerns raised in the report and confirming the Parish Council’s support.
 

You may not be aware that Cllr Botham was newly elected at the last county election earlier this year and is the Deputy Cabinet Member for Jobs,
Economy and Transport, and has a responsibility for highway matters. From that meeting Cllr Botham kindly offered to take up the issue of winter
maintenance and the use of
West Bank by HGVs with senior highway officers to see if anything further could be done to address concerns.
DCC has now responded and I will outline the advice given by its officers.
 

Dealing firstly with winter maintenance. DCC accept that in adverse conditions West Bank will prove challenging but this is no different to other minor
roads with steep gradients. For other than residents,
West Bank offers a secondary route from the village to the B5056 and A515 etc.
Yes it is. Most similar roads are regularly gritted and have fewer residents.
The primary route is much less steep, is wider and represents a very short alternative. The primary route also follows the road hierarchy.
We would be lost without a hierarchy! If West Bank offers a secondary route (which is more often than not used as a primary shortcut!) then
it should be properly signposted. If DCC refuses to grit the road then West Bank should be closed to traffic until it IS gritted. At the moment we
have the worst of both worlds - regular traffic which assumes the road to be gritted when it has not and a refusal by the authorities
to acknowledge some responsibilty!

 DCC also acknowledge the difficulty of gaining access to
West Bank in snow conditions due to the narrowness of the carriageway and
parked vehicles within it. This creates difficulties especially when gritters are attached with snow ploughs.
Therefore the authority is reluctant to include the road in the primary network because of the strong possibility of a winter maintenance vehicle
becoming stuck and
being unable to complete roads of much greater strategic importance.

   Really? Here is a gritter/plough not getting stuck in one of the worst sets of conditions for years!
Those conditions being caused by a lack of gritting and ploughing in the first place! The authority is 'reluctant' because to ensure the safety
of vehicles, people and property might cost them a bit more.

The issue of non-compliance with the weight restriction is of concern to the County Council, as it is the Parish Council. DCC has confirmed that correct enforceable
signage is in place and there appears to be no excuse for non-compliance. Highways officers have highlighted the issue of
non-compliance to the attention of the
police and trading standards, both who have suitable powers to enforce This is in addition to reports made by local residents over many years, which I know have
been pro-actively pursued by the Trading Standards Team at DCC.

There has not been ONE SINGLE prosecution over this in more than 15 years of reporting.

Although DCC has confirmed the existing signage is enforceable the authority has agreed to meet with the Parish Council to look if improvements can be made.
I anticipate such
a meeting taking place in the New Year. 
The existing signage may be legally correct but most of it is facing THE WRONG WAY! Additional and clear signs are required.

Other than drivers blatantly ignoring the existing signage the other factor of non-compliance may be down to the use of SATNAV.
Approximately 50% of drivers reported are local or regular offenders. They know the signs perfectly well. they also know the prospect of
action taken against them is minimal.

The Parish Council has directly raised this issue with the Secretary of State for Transport who has agreed to investigate the matter further and inform digital
 mapping companies to ensure inappropriate roads such as
West Bank are not mapped for satellite navigation models.
Cllrs Long and Swindell (DDDC) recently asked the Secretary of State to investigate
strengthening existing legislation to prosecute those
who repeatedly break the highway weight restriction, which he offered to do.
 

Mr McLoughlin arrived for a meeting. His only suggestion was to 'investigate the matter further' with SatNav companies! Oh joy unbounded!
The Minister is our local MP, even though he has ministerial responsibilities. As seen from the letters above this appears to be as much
as he thinks he can do! Those letters go back 18 YEARS so he cannot say he didn't know there was a problem.

In the meantime, the Parish Council would urge residents to report all HGVs they see abusing the weight restrictions throughout the village by providing them with
the company name, vehicle registration, date and time. If residents can provide photographic evidence too, this will increase the likelihood of a prosecution.
You can contact Derbyshire Trading Standards on 01629 533190 or email
trading.standards@derbyshire.gov.uk.
This has been done for the last (at least) 10 years. Whilst Trading Standards are very helpful we are no further forward and the
situation gets worse all the time.

Please may I assure you that the Parish Council has always actively fought the case for highway safety on West Bank (as it as) and will continue to do so for all
the streets in its administrative area. See letters above
You may recall that the Parish Council with support from a few local residents secured the lower weight limit for East and West Bank
several years ago, which was once under threat. The Parish Council originally opposed the classification of
West Bank as a secondary route for winter maintenance prior
to the introduction of the new Winter Service Plan a couple of years ago and again at the review stage. For the last four years the Parish Council has, with great assistance
from local volunteers, worked with the County Council to ensure that 80% of the pavements in the village are cleared of ice and snow during adverse weather conditions.
There are no pavements on West Bank!

I will contact you again once further information is available.

 Yours sincerely

Clerk & Responsible Financial Officer

The Parish Council is in a difficult position, that is understood. It has no real power and can really only represent the views of residents to
higher authorities. However, it does seem to take an inordinately long time to do so. Derbyshire County Council Highways are the people
who ought to be cooperating on both gritting and HGV abuse but they appear reluctant, or at least glacier-slow. In the meantime West Bank is
still an Accident Waiting to Happen.

Most recent

      

Response from the Dept of Chocolate Teapots:

 

Well it's a start!
The question is: how long will it take SatNav companies to react, if they ever do?
Our MP has also missed the opportunity to point out that there is a general
7.5t Weight Restriction over this whole area!

 

 

 

This meeting took place before Christmas 2013. Neither the MP, the County Council,
the District Council nor the Parish Council thought it might be useful actually to notify local residents,
or to inform them of the outcome!

 

17 Jan 14
Letter finally received from our MP, the relevant part of which reads:
"....there remain a number of matters outside of the control of either an MP or a Secretary of State.
I explained this in the meeting with Councillor Swindell and Cllr Long, and they understand it completely.
In neither role can I force the relevant authorities to take specific actions. These include HGV weight and speed limits,
which are the responsibility of Derbyshire County Council; enforcement of them is for the police.
As you mention, I have done my best to persuade both to take more effective action, although I fully accept that some
residents are disappointed in the responses from the various bodies.

All I can do, and I have done since you wrote, is ask the main satellite navigation companies to examine what might be done."

The enforcement of HGV weight limits is actually the responsibilty of Derbyshire Trading Standards but the principle is the same.

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