Saturday, 21 July 2018

Give Back Our Paving Slabs

UTILITY companies are gradually destroying Henley’s York stone pavements.

UTILITY companies are gradually destroying Henley’s York stone pavements.

A former mayor found 21 sites in the town centre where the stone was either broken, loose or missing as result of being dug up.

Now Dave Smewing, who carried out a survey, is calling on utility companies to repair the damage or pay for the slabs in Market Place, Duke Street and Bell Street to be replaced.

He was a member of Henley Town Council in 2001 when £600,000 was spent on the pedestrianisation of Falaise Square in which York stone setts were laid around the town hall as well as on both sides of Market Place. Mr Smewing, of St Mark’s Road, Henley, said: “The work of the investment plan more than a decade ago is now slowly being destroyed, particularly by Thames Water.

“The company made £550million profit last year and I believe it is responsible for half of the damage.

“York stone gives the town a touch of class. It was such a big investment and the important thing is to get the utility companies to replace like for like when they dig the pavements up.

“What they are actually doing is taking up the slabs and putting down tarmacadam, which is unacceptable.”

Mr Smewing said he would be urging the town council to press Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority, to do the work and send the bill to Thames Water.

“If an example is made then other companies will take note,” he said.

Town clerk Mike Kennedy has passed Mr Smewing’s findings, together with details of another six sites identified in September, to Keith Stenning, the county council’s area steward, asking him to investigate.

Mr Kennedy said: “The utility companies seem to dig up the York stones then fail to replace them. The stones have been substituted with tarmacadam or a different type of stone or concrete.

“The time to pick up the contractor on this was when they were just leaving the site but who is responsible? I guess we all should have been more vigilant.

“Ultimately, the county council is responsible. It will have all the records for the street opening consent orders that all the contractors have to provide.”

Henley Mayor Stefan Gawrysiak said: “The York stone pavement should be kept in pristine condition. It looks very nice visually and complements our old buildings.

“It is important that the slabs are maintained at all costs. It is expensive but if the utility companies dig up the road then it should be down to them, not the taxpayer, and should be factored into the initial costs.”

York stone is a variety of sandstone from Yorkshire quarries that have been worked since medieval times.

It is a tight-grained sedimentary rock which consists of quartz, mica, feldspar, clay and iron oxides and is known for its durability. Ten square metres costs about £700.

A Thames Water spokesman said: “When we carry out work we always aim to put the pavement back as we found it.

“Sometimes we will lay a temporary surface before returning and completing the job. This is often done if the pavement is made of a specialist material while we get the replacement material ordered.

“All of these jobs are in hand and will be completed as soon as possible.”

A county council spokesman said: “All the sites have been made safe. We are currently investigating which of these sites are utility works where it is down to the utility companies to carry out the work.”

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