Letchworth skate park contractors censured by council bosses over safety
PUBLISHED: 10:04 08 August 2017 | UPDATED: 13:29 09 August 2017
Contractors building Letchworth’s new skate park allowed construction vehicles to thunder past a pool entrance and playground without proper safety precautions until council bosses intervened on Friday.
Canvas Spaces, which has worked since June on the Norton Common skate park development for community charity Groundwork Hertfordshire and North Herts District Council, failed to consistently post barriers or a banksman to oversee the site access route – which is between Letchworth outdoor pool’s entrance and a kids’ play area.
The district council has now condemned this as “totally unacceptable” and ordered the contractors to provide a barrier on the road, a pedestrian barrier by the pool entrance and a banksman to ensure public safety.
The move comes after complaints from Letchworth pool user Darren King about what he described as an “appalling lack of health and safety observance” that risked lives.
He said: “I had three near-misses with vehicles leaving the skate park development as I left the outdoor pool – and if I had been one step ahead, or if a child had run out to get to the swings opposite, there would have been an extremely serious incident and quite possibly a fatality.
“The play park is directly opposite the doorway to the pool, and children often run straight out to get to the swings. It is only pure luck that has prevented a really horrible accident.
“In the most recent case it was a car, but on the other two occasions the vehicles were large construction lorries, driven past the pool entrance with no effective banksman.”
Mr King had suggested that in the interest of public safety, work on the skate park should be stopped until the end of pool season in September. He added that staff at the pool had repeatedly raised concerns about safety, without any result until now.
After the Comet contacted the district council on Friday morning, bosses held an urgent meeting with Canvas Spaces at Norton Common that day to resolve the matter.
Councillor Jane Gray, the district council’s executive member for leisure, said afterwards: “We take this issue extremely seriously.
“Public safety is paramount and the council team met as a matter of urgency with the contractors at Norton Common on Friday to establish the facts.
“Prior to this issue being raised with us, we had been made aware of an isolated incident concerning the vehicles at the site. This was acted upon quickly and we received assurances that there would not be a reoccurrence.
“It is totally unacceptable that it has become apparent that lorries are continuing to enter the site without a banksman and the barrier being used to protect pedestrians. We have taken steps to resolve this immediately.
“In order to prevent this happening again a barrier has now been placed at the start of the roadway and it has been agreed that any delivery driver will need to report to the site office to have it lifted.
“This will ensure our contactors, who are building the skate park, are able to erect the temporary pedestrian barrier in front of the pool entrance and provide a banksman to ensure the safety of the public.
“We appreciate this being brought to our attention so that appropriate action can be, and has now been, taken and visitors can safely enjoy the common.”
Canvas Spaces construction director Todd Smith told the Comet that problems had been resolved.
He said: “Health and safety is of paramount importance for any project carried out by Canvas.
“Safety measures have been in place from the start of the project in Letchworth, in accordance with current legislation.
“We were made aware of Mr King’s comments and, although the appropriate safety procedures were in place, we implemented additional measures to alleviate any concerns.
“We are very much looking forward to this excellent community facility being open for use and enjoyed for many years to come.”
Groundwork landscape architect Nicola Murphy added: “We would like to echo the assurances from the council that all the necessary health and safety procedures are in place and being followed by Canvas on site.
“We thank the public for raising their concerns and we are pleased to be able to reassure them that the various measures described are being taken to protect them from the risks that the construction works present.”