LETTER: Public safety at the forefront

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I would like to respond to the series of articles published in your paper about the pavements in Chichester city centre and falls suffered by members of the public.

I want to assure you that we always have, and always will, put the protection and safety of the public at the forefront of our work, particularly for those with accessibility and mobility issues.

That is the reason why the standard of our inspection programme (Safety Plus) is one of the highest adhered to by local authorities in the UK.

It is also the reason an immediate inspection was made by engineers notified by relatives of one elderly resident that a serious injury had been suffered in a fall on a pavement in North Street. That inspection found no defect at that time.

Because Chichester city centre is heavily used by pedestrians, our inspectors identify any defects once a month and walk the length of each street two or three times during a routine inspection.

Any defects recorded are repaired in accordance with our inspection policy.

Our intervention levels are designed to maximise public safety, and we repair wherever our intervention levels are met.

Chichester city centre is in a historic conservation area, characterised by the attractive natural stone and cobbled paving in many areas.

These natural materials come with their own challenges of form and fragility.

York Stone as a material damages easily when heavy vehicles drive over the slabs.

Both East Street and North Street are open to delivery vehicles at night, which affects the paving. However, permitting this is vitally important for the retail economy in Chichester.

Chichester is not unique within the county, similar heritage paving can be found in Worthing and Horsham where the same high standard has to be applied.

Maintaining our pavements is a balance. We have to consider the constraints and materials required within conservation areas and those with heritage status.

Chichester District Council has the final say on paving materials as the local planning authority.

A conservative estimate to repave the city centre would put the cost at about £2m per street, if planning consent was ever given.

It was reported in your paper that four trips were being recorded in Chichester city centre a week.

There is no basis for this figure and as the highway authority, this level of incidents hasn’t been formally reported to us.

Last week we met with members of Chichester District Council to talk about this issue, and our Highways staff accompanied them on a tour of the city centre to inspect the paving.

I am pleased that the councillors welcomed the opportunity and were satisfied that our teams demonstrated how well our inspection process was working.

We continue to work with our city and district councils about any specific concerns that they have, as they raise them with us.

If you trip or fall, or see a damaged paving slab in the city centre, please do not hesitate to let us know.

You can report defects to us directly online using the www.lovewestsussex.gov.uk reporting tool, or by calling us on 01243 642105.