Thu, 16 May 2019
WEST Berkshire Council and gas distribution company SGN are blaming each other for the longer-than-anticipated closure of Mill Lane in Newbury.
The road has been shut since April 15 to allow SGN to renew a gas main.
It was meant to reopen last Friday (May 10), but is now due to reopen tomorrow (Friday) - a week later than expected.
In a statement last week, West Berkshire Council said the “slow rate of works by SGN” was the reason for the delay.
However, SGN has refuted that claim and pointed the finger of blame firmly back at the local authority.
SGN says the council’s request to lift the closure for one day for the local elections was “unexpected”, but the local authority said that it told contractors back in March.
SGN spokesman Bradley Barlow said: “As we neared the end of our gas network upgrade in Mill Lane, we were unexpectedly asked by West Berkshire Council to reopen the road for the local elections on Thursday, May 2.
“To do this, we had to temporarily suspend work from Monday, April 29, so that the road could be refilled and resurfaced in time for polling day.
“We were back on site on Friday, May 3, to re-dig out the road, so we could continue upgrading our pipes.
“The local authority was aware that reopening Mill Lane for polling day would delay our project end date.
“We appreciate it’s frustrating for Newbury residents and we’d like to thank the local community for your continued patience and understanding.
“Our project is now nearing completion and, all being well, we’ll fully reopen Mill Lane by the weekend.”
A company based in Mill Lane has also leapt to the defence of SGN and criticised the council for taking the decision to reopen the road for the elections.
In an email to the Newbury Weekly News, the company said: “Due to no fault of SGN the work was late starting as they could not put on the diversion due to the closure of the A339 at night.
“They then had to stop work last Thursday so the road could be opened for the local election, even though there is no polling station in Mill Lane.
“We were informed by the council that it was opened to enable the ballot boxes to be taken to the racecourse – surely they could have used the diversion that our customers have to take?
“We feel that without these delays the work would probably have been completed on time.”
However, the council refuted the claim, saying it had made it clear that the road needed to be reopened for the elections.
Council spokesman Martin Dunscombe said: “The utility works in Mill Lane were discussed with SGN’s contractor, OMJ, in March.
“At that time we informed them of the need to open the road for the local elections and this was acknowledged on March 18.
“Our requirements were known in advance and allowed time for the project to be planned around reopening the road.
“This would have avoided the need to extend the work permit, and the subsequent inconvenience for residents and businesses.
“Local democracy is really important and we wanted to make it as easy as possible for residents to take part in the elections on Thursday, May 2.
“Reopening the road made it easier for constituents in this part of Newbury to get to their polling station to cast their votes.”
Do you think the council was right to lift the closure for one day for the elections? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or a letter to the editor to email@example.com