Tuesday 15 March 2011

How Waltham Forest Council and Ascham Homes sponsor footway obstruction by lawless lorry drivers

A recent Housing Needs Survey found that 24.2% of households in the London Borough of Waltham Forest included a member with a disability. Furthermore, 44.1% of these with a disability suffered from mobility difficulties with 6.2% containing a member who is a wheelchair user.

You might think, therefore, that the Council would be keen to ensure that its pavements were kept free of obstruction. Not a bit of it. When I asked how many shopkeepers had been prosecuted in the past year for obstructing the footway with advertising boards, back came the answer: none.

Worse still, Ascham Homes, which is the council’s privatised housing department, contracts work out to scaffolding firms which have no standards at all when it comes to blatant obstruction of the footway and displays of total indifference to pedestrians with a mobility difficulty (which can be anything from being blind, pushing a double buggy, using a wheelchair, or being on crutches).

Today I encountered this Griffin scaffolding lorry (above) parked completely across the pavement on Addison Road by the junction with Beulah Road. Scaffolding is going up on the block of flats here, which I’m pretty sure is local authority housing under the control of Ascham Homes.

This is quite a lethal bend as drivers come round it fast, making the complacent assumption that the unseen road ahead will always be clear. This lorry is also parked right by a nursery, and there are a lot of parents/carers pushing buggies or walking with toddlers.

Griffin claim to be particularly concerned for the safety of pedestrians ‘walking by’ sites where their scaffolding is erected:

it’s an area we take really seriously.

We operate a tight health and safety policy.

The scaffolding industry strikes me as being completely out of control as far as its attitude to health and safety for cyclists and pedestrians is concerned. Indeed, even quite rudimentary matters are neglected. For example, I spotted this Mattison Scaffolding lorry (below) in Walthamstow High Street on Saturday. A green lorry working for an ostensibly ‘Green’ firm (they are still working on their spelling).

This lorry has no rear numberplate. And its load appeared to be unsecured.

A firm which seems to get a lot of business from Waltham Forest Council, via its proxy Ascham Homes, is AJ Scaffolding. This firm boasts that

Due to the importance of Health & Safety all our scaffolding operatives receive ongoing training and have passed their health & safety test. All operatives are trained to current statutory legislation.

And this, below, was the scene on Westbury Road E17 on the afternoon of February 21st. Scaffolding was dumped across the footway, and a lorry was parked across the footway all afternoon, forcing pedestrians out into the middle of the road. These scaffolders were working on Hatherley House, which is very definitely under the care of Ascham Homes.

I emailed Ascham Homes that very afternoon with a copy to Chris Robbins, Leader of Waltham Forest council. I complained about the situation on Westbury Road and asked

Perhaps you could enlighten me as to what standards Ascham Homes requires of contractors who work for it, and if they cover such matters as respecting the rights and safety of pedestrians and obeying traffic laws designed to protect them.

Neither Ascham Homes nor Cllr Robbins have since troubled to reply, but then I note that even a member of the Ascham Homes board grumbles that Currently there is a lot of indifference to residents’ views and complaints.

No surprise, then, that nothing has changed. Here they are again today – AJ Scaffolding, working for Ascham Homes, with a lorry parked quite unnecessarily across the footway on St Stephens Close E17. This footway provides a useful short cut for pedestrians through to Grove Road.

(Below) Parked both across the cycle lane and on the footway on a double yellow line ‘no waiting at any time’ restriction. Today. POSH Scaffolding, who seem to be based in Essex. Ah, well, an Essex driver – that would explain it.

And look what's the other side of the road! Walthamstow Police Station. But as we know, anti-social behaviour and lawlessness involving a driver isn't really of any interest to London's finest.

Lastly (below), here’s J&A Scaffolding in action on a property off Pretoria Avenue.

A large proportion of our current work is for local Councils and our reputation has been built on trust and reliability. We take Health and Safety as a priority. Yeah, right…