MORE than £36,000 has been spent fixing paving slabs on the Parade over the past three years – The Observer can exclusively reveal.
Figures we obtained show something between £12,000 to £15,000 has been spent from Warwickshire County Council’s Highway maintenance budget every year since 2011 to cover repairs – meaning the amount could even be as high as £45,000.
Yet vans and cars continue to cause damage on a daily basis by illegally parking on pavements in Leamington town centre.
The problem is one we have long highlighted, and one which gets many readers hot under the collar.
From the Observer’s Royal Priors offices overlooking the Parade we witness delivery vans and other vehicles parked up on the pavements regularly without punishment.
And now it seems even the council’s own workers are getting in on the act.
Earlier this week, one eagle-eyed reader spotted Warwickshire County Council highways staff repairing some of the broken paving slabs on the Parade while their own van was parked up illegally on the pavement just a few feet away.
The issue has been on-going since a £2.2 million facelift was carried out in 2006 to make the pavements ‘safer and more pedestrian friendly.’
But the project was subject to a flood of complaints about shoddy workmanship, which resulted in several workers being sacked.
On one occasion back in 2008 we counted more than 250 broken, cracked, damaged or uneven paving slabs on the Parade – and that was only from the top to the junction with Regent Street, and on one side of the Parade.
The cracked slabs were blamed on drivers parking illegally and this led to new parking restrictions and signs being installed, which were meant to ban parking or stopping on the Parade at any time.
But in the the last three years only 509 penalty charge notices (PCNs) have been issued by traffic wardens from Warwick District Council, which carries out enforcement of the on-street parking regulations on behalf of the county council.
Fines amounted to some £2,100, but just 66 of those PCNs were given to vehicles parked illegally on the pavement while the rest were given to other drivers parked illegally elsewhere on the Parade.
In a statement on the issue, Warwickshire county councillor Nicola Davies, who represents Leamington North, told the paper: “The county council has a programme of works in place to carry out repairs to the pavement on the Parade.
“We have listened to the concerns of local businesses and interested parties and I share them. I am meeting officers soon to see what can be done to get the works carried out as quickly as possible.
“What would be helpful is for drivers to desist from parking on the pavement. We ask for their co-operation to help us carry out the work without inconvenience.”
*Reporter Laura Maltby took the streets to get people’s thoughts on the state of the pavements on Leamington’s Parade.
Will Crowder, who sells the Big Issue outside H&M, told The Observer he had helped people after they had fallen or tripped on damaged slabs on more than one occasion.
He said: “I regularly see people – especially the elderly – tumble or almost tumble and I’ve sat with them to make sure they’re okay.
“Despite the fact the council say they are spending money, the situation hasn’t changed over the years and it could definitely be a lot better.”
Whitnash resident Sandra James said: “Leamington is such a pretty town but the cracks really don’t look good at all.
“It’s the fact the slabs are all uneven that makes it dangerous.”
Speaking about the prospect of putting in delivery parking bays, she said: “It could be a solution if the vans are the main cause of the problem because it’s not really practical for them to park elsewhere so it becomes a bit of a vicious circle.
“I can appreciate it’s difficult for the council to do everything they’ve got to within a certain budget but I would rather see the money used to support our vulnerable people or to avoid cuts than on the pavements.”
Lifelong Leamingtonian Lily Brown said: “There’s just no evidence of that money being spent. If they gave £15,000 to someone to ensure The Parade looked an acceptable standard, I’m sure they would be able to do a better job than the piecemeal approach that’s currently in place.”
And Garry Fletcher, who has worked in Leamington for the past six months, insisted the problem had definitely worsened over that period.
He said: “The amount of people I see trip over on a daily basis, it’s just dangerous and something needs to be done.”
Talking about what he believed to be one of the main causes of the cracked paving, a retired builder, who did not want to be named, said: “When they jet wash the pavement to clear the chewing gum it makes the slabs loose and they dry out, which makes them more likely to crack. Put the tarmac down again and you can jet wash it as much as you like.”
But that was not something Pat Walton, who occasionally visits the town from her Cotswold home, wanted to see.
She added: “With Leamington being a spa town, there’s a certain expectation of quality and I don’t really think tarmac would be in keeping with that.
“I do like the pavements and they have the potential to look very pretty but with all the cracks they just look scruffy.”
Liz Tucker said she was “completely stunned” by the amount.
She added: “I can’t believe they’re spending that sort of money because to me at least, it never looks like any improvements have been made.”
*What do YOU think? Email the editor at email@example.com
Workmen park on the pavement – while repairing the pavement damaged by drivers parking on the pavement. (s)
Delivery drivers simply ignore parking regulations. (s)
“No Loading” signs are being ignored. (s)
Paving slabs marked for repair. (s)
Contractors at work carrying out repairs on the Parade where evidence of what happens when vans park on the pavement is there for all to see. (s)