'When will permanent school crossing on Biggleswade's Potton Road be installed?'

'We're going round in circles'

Thursday, 30th September 2021, 4:45 pm
Updated Thursday, 30th September 2021, 4:48 pm

A permanent road crossing for schoolchildren is taking "too long" to install according to a councillor.

Councillor Steven Watkins, of Biggleswade North, argues that Central Bedfordshire Council is "going round in circles" when it comes to installing the crossing on Potton Road, Biggleswade, and that the issue has been ongoing for several years now.

The Conservative councillor claims the temporary traffic lights that are currently in place are costing the taxpayer too much money, and that the permanent crossing should be installed as soon as possible.

The temporary crossing has suffered from flooding in the past. Photo: Cllr Watkins.

Cllr Watkins argued: "It's hugely frustrating as it's been an issue since I was elected in 2018. But we seem to be going round in circles.

"Frustratingly, we still can't tell people when a permanent crossing will be in place."

The campaign for a crossing started when residents contacted Cllr Watkins a couple of years ago and he and Cllrs Ian Bond and Hayley Whitaker became involved.

Cllr Watkins told the Chronicle that there is a crossing a little further up but it's "not the natural place" to cross for the nearby school.

There have been a couple of accidents reported over the past few years and Cllr Watkins was determined to help the safety campaign.

He claimed: "Central Beds Council has tried to recruit a lollipop person but I've never known a recruitment process be so difficult to fill.

"There is a temporary crossing [traffic lights] in place at the moment. But the last time they were installed for a period of a couple of months [before the summer holidays] it cost the taxpayer in excess of £5,000.

"We need a permanent crossing in place as soon as possible."

A zebra crossing was approved at a council traffic management meeting on May 25, and the council then started working with Ringway Jacobs, the design team, on a detailed design.

It also decided to tweak plans for carriageway ponding and add more traffic calming measures

However, Cllr Watkins told the Chronicle that the design was then sent for a Road Safety Audit, and problems were found with the design.

He said that work to install the permanent crossing was supposed to commence in late August, but as a result of the audit, it has now been delayed.

He added: "We can't blame the pandemic - after all, the council didn't stop running - and this has been an ongoing issue before Covid.

"It was supposed to be installed in Easter 2020, then later in the year (2020) and then earlier this year (2021) and it is still delayed."

A Central Bedfordshire Council spokesman said: "Following approval of a zebra crossing at Traffic Management Committee, we have been working closely with our contractor, who have created a programme of works which are close to being finalised.

"An independent Road Safety Audit (RSA) has to be undertaken which looks at how the scheme will work for road users rather than the technical side of the design. In this case, the RSA identified concerns with the approach speeds and so additional measures were required to reduce speeds, that also took account of feedback from the police. Alongside that, there have been delays caused by shortages of some construction materials which is out of the control of the council or the contractor.

"We have also added additional elements to the scheme such as drainage and lighting improvements to ensure we deliver one scheme that encompasses all the requirements on that stretch of road and is fit for purpose, safe and sound in the long term rather than approaching it piecemeal.

"We do understand that it’s vital that the children and their parents and carers are kept safe by ensuring that they have a facility to cross prior to a permanent solution, so in the absence of a permanent crossing, a temporary button crossing is in place.

"We apologise for the delays, but it is sensible to complete the full project in one go so that we do not have to ‘retrofit’ or fix problems such as drainage at a later date, causing further inconvenience to road users and costing the council more to deliver."