Council Defends Decision To Tarmac Chiswick Pavements

But local residents want work to be postponed and alternatives discussed


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The Deputy Leader of Hounslow Council, Cllr Colin Ellar has responded to concerns about paving stones being replaced by tarmac on Chiswick pavements and says government cutbacks have forced the Council to make "hard choices" about what could be done.

Residents in the Foster Road area of Chiswick and surrounding streets are challenging the plan by Hounslow Highways as they believe it will not suit their Edwardian streets and they are also worried that the work will damage trees. Responding to the statement from Cllr. Ellar, a spokesman for the residents, Mr. Robert Shaw, said they felt the work should be postponed, pending further discussions as there was a "huge and rising tide" of objection to the proposals.

A view of Foster Road

In his statement, Cllr Ellar said; “When we originally applied to the government for funding for Hounslow Highways, the funds secured would have paid for slab paving everywhere it is currently. Under the new Conservative/ Liberal Democrat coalition government, this amount was cut by 30%, a sum of over £100m.

“Hard choices had to be made about what could be afforded, and this meant moving to replacing paving stones like-for-like on a case-by-case basis, rather than automatically. We value the heritage of the borough, and in conservation areas there will be like-for-like replacement and paving slabs will be retained.

“For other areas the default solution will be asphalt, which is safe, easy to maintain and affordable; but this is not inflexible. While there aren’t council funds available to automatically provide paving slabs in areas which may want to retain them, the local area forums have the opportunity to invest money into paving slabs for their residents, should they wish to do so.

“I am also very concerned that many people aren’t aware of the processes that are in place to safeguard their streets.

“I understand the value that people place on the trees on their street; it’s a value I share. It’s a value that the council shares too, which is why Hounslow Highways is committed to retaining trees wherever possible. It is important that trees and tree roots don’t cause a hazard to pedestrians or damage to properties, but in many cases sensible work-around solutions such as root trimming can be found. Trees will be carefully assessed in each case in terms of the risks they might present and how these might be remedied as well as their age, health and similar factors – and when they can’t be retained, due to their state or location, they will be carefully replaced by a similar but more suitable tree, as close to the original location as possible.

“There have also been concerns raised about the digging up of asphalt pavement by utility companies. We have to be pragmatic about this in terms of convenience – repairs of gas mains and water pipes are essential – but the Hounslow Highways contract is uncompromising about the end result of these repairs. There is an obligation to ensure that after these repairs the pavement is brought back to the same standard as it was beforehand.

“Hounslow Highways is undertaking a ‘worst first’ approach to works; the imminent date for the scheduled works in Chiswick highlight the desperately pressing need for these repairs. While I respect the pride that so many of our residents take in the appearance of their areas, it is not acceptable for our roads to disintegrate and cause hazards for the majority of people in the area due to further delays.”

Residents have been told that work would start in Foster Road and Alwyn Avenue and eventually extend to the whole of Chiswick and other parts of Hounslow with the exception of Turnham Green and other nominated conservation areas.

Commenting on Cllr Ellar's remarks, Mr. Shaw said: "Cllr Ellar blames a 30% cut in government funding for Hounslow’s decision to tarmac the pavements of our residential roads as a cheaper and nastier alternative. Spending cuts are a fact of life in many situations nowadays, but reducing the quality of everything by 30% is not a sensible alternative for pavements. What is wrong, perhaps, with doing 30% less work, but to do that to an acceptable standard?

"It appears that a better standard of surface will be provided in Conservation areas, where the planning watchwords are “preserve or enhance”. Why should everywhere else not also be enhanced, where this is possible. Amongst other things, Cllr Ellar intends to rip out our 100+ year old granite kerbstones – how much will they fetch on the salvage market? – and to replace with thin and brittle concrete edgings.

"Cllr Ellar claims that Chiswick’s pavements are the worst in the borough. Where is the evidence that all our roads have been surveyed, and that the pavements have been found to be in such poor condition that limited amounts of patching and replacement paving will not be adequate? Whilst the Devonhurst* area has indeed been neglected, with far too many tarmac infill patches, that can be addressed by care-and-repair rather than by downgrading us.

"Cllr Ellar does now appear to confirm that trees which are removed, to facilitate a free run with the tarmac, will be replaced; which is the least possible concession. However, the removal of trees was not even mentioned in Hounslow’s 18 th December circular letter warning of the works. I understand that root-pruning of mature trees is an expensive and lengthy process – unlikely to be tolerated by Vinci-Ringway’s works programme and budget.

"There is a huge and rising tide of objection to Hounslow’s proposals. These must be postponed, initially to allow time for alternative treatment of the pavements to be discussed and agreed, and also for a longer term re-assessment of Conservation Area status being extended to preserve what makes our roads good places to live, as well."

* All of Wavendon Av, Foster Rd, Hadley Gds, Alwyn Av, Sharon Rd and parts of Dukes Avenue and Sutton Court Road. Named after the mansion which stood there, on ex-Royal Horticultural Society land, before the Edwardian streets were laid out.

January 17, 2013

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