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Welcome to Ipswich!

15 Mar

I am sorry to write such a direct post about my town, but I have being blogging on this subject for 18 months and during that time have had numerous conversations with just about everyone in authority locally, including the police, Councillors, council officers and my MP and absolutely nothing appears to have changed, if anything, a minority of motorists are getting even bolder and are parking further onto the pavement. During this time I have also become aware of the sheer number of different obstacles encountered in a small area. Do remember however that all is not lost, far from it. We are getting on the case and our job is to keep highlighting the issue in a way that the authorities can not keep ignoring and one day someone who is in a senior authority position will finally get enough courage and confidence to grab the issue and deal with it effectively.

There are many examples of where issues have suddenly been addressed after years of neglect. I believe that for years the French authorities accepted much higher levels of road deaths than occurred in the UK, until the son of the minister of transport? was killed in a traffic collision, Since that event the authorities have been having considerable success with a campaign to bring the figures down (I can’t now find a reference to this – can anyone confirm it). The French are currently introducing numerous additional road safety initiatives and produce particularly hard hitting information campaigns. It is also encouraging how cyclist safety has finally been getting very powerful media support from new sources, notably from The Times. The next step for this campaign might be when a major national newspaper to takes up the pedestrian cause in a big way with clear campaign demands.

Until something changes we need to continue to bring pressure and information to those in power who will one day realise that they just have to address it and that there is considerable support from people to address it. Until then I will continue to draw attention to the issue. To that end, here are a few examples of what pedestrians around my area have had to put up over the past 48 hours!

First off, there is the Tesco delivery truck this morning. The driver said that he had received no guidance at all on where it was acceptable to park and where it wasn’t (not that I believe that really, possibly it is more a matter of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell‘). The driver was parked so far up onto the pavement today that I could hardly get past at all without being scratched by the prickly hedge; the local guy in his wheel-chair would have no chance. As usual there was a space for the driver to park on the other side of the road, but that would have increased his drop-off time by, ohhh, possibly at least a minute and we all know that for Tesco ‘every penny counts’!

Tesco delivery - no space between van and prickly hedge

Tesco delivery – no space between van and prickly hedge

Next up, we have a delightful combination of bin day and road works. The road signs from May Guerney do at least leave the legally required 1m clearance this time, but unfortunately they create a chicane for pedestrians when combined with the bins that have been left scattered as usual across the pavement by the council making it impossible for my wheelchair-bound neighbour to use the pavement. Possibly he should just stay at home on bin-day? Or possibly the council should instruct their staff to return bins onto drive-ways where they are available and road-works signs should only be used where they are actually required for safety reasons!

Bin day and road works. No chance after council have littered pavements with bins!

So now we move the the next street where the bin collectors have left the bins neatly scattered across the pavement next to the cars which was also oh-so-elegantly up on the pavement making the pavement completely unusable. The bin-collector I spoke to was unapologetic and indicate that he was completely happy with how they had been left. His parting comment was ‘it is a kerb-side collection, not a garden collection’ which was clever of him! As regular readers will know I have been banging on to the local council about their bin collection policies for months now with no apparent effect.

Bins left on pavement by council and cars on pavement. No chance!

More bins and another car up on the pavement

Finally, we have a new ‘dropped pavement’ being constructed nearby. The council refer to them as ‘dropped kerbs’, but using the current design they lower the pavement on a slope across the whole width of the pavement. I have previously requested that they keep the majority of the pavement level as they used to in the past.

A new dropped-pavement being constructed – more sloping pavement to deal with.

And here is the result. And to illustrate the slope, I place the football at the curtilage (where the pavement joins the property) and watched it roll across the ‘pavement’ into the carriageway before settling in the gutter. Not helpful for wheelchair and buggy users. Do also notice the road-works sign (see below).

Sloping ‘pavement’, ball rolls into road

Finally, just past this dropped kerb I came across a road-works sign left illegally with less than legal minimum 1m space required for pedestrians. Given that I had discussed this issue with the person from the Nation Grid Gas only yesterday, and given that the road-works were highly visible, I have now removed the sign into safe keeping joining the sign from Mervyn Lambert which has still not been collected incidentally. As usual I will now email their marketing people and let them know that they can come and collect it from me.

Illegally positioned sign by the National Grid


Almost at the exact moment that I pressed ‘post’ on this blog post my MP, Ben Gummer, contacted me indicating that he was going to work on the issue and was on-side. Very good news.

On a more irritating note I jumped through a bunch of not very clear hoops to get an email address for National Grid Gas from their website, but when I sent my email to that address I was told that it was no longer valid – at least they had the decency to automatically forward to the new addrress. They do also seem to be having a bit of bother with the word ‘correspondence’. “This email address is no longer valid. Your email has been forwarded to the correct address of Please use this as the correspondance address for future reference.

‘Harm to local amenity’

15 Jan

The government is evidently going to publish plans on Monday to prevent councils in England fining householders who break ‘minor bin collection rules’. They claim say that councils should only be able to act where they can prove that a householder is causing ‘harm to local amenity’ and that ‘only those causing real problems for their community will get punished’. The aim of this legislation seems to be to reduce the powers of authorities over rubbish collections, however in Ipswich bins are already causing ‘harm to local amenity’ as can be seen in all but one of the cases features below :

£50K fine and 5 years in prison for rubbish on the pavement – bins and cars are fine though

1 Sep

The council has recently put up signs in the area warning of penalties including fines of up to 50K fines and five years in prison for dumping rubbish on the pavement. Serious stuff! I assume there are referring to the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (section 33). Unfortunately they then go and leave wheelie-bins all over the pavement every week after collection! The following two pictures are taken on the same street. The first shows signs warning that dog poo on the pavement costs up to £1,000 and the fines for fly-tipping. The second photo shows how the council leave bins all over the pavement after emptying them for no good reason that I can discover. Cars on the pavement are not being challenged of course.

No dumping of waste £50K fine

Bins all over the on the pavement again after collection by council

Local council must change its bin policy

25 Aug

The official bin-collection policy of Ipswich Borough Council policy is to leave bins after collection ‘at the very back of the pavement on the curtilage of the property … not obstructing residents’ driveways, preventing usage of drop kerbs etc‘. I have asked them why they don’t return the bins to where they found them (which is normally within the curtilage of the property on a driveway) and have also reminded them of their duties to the blind/wheelchair users and other groups under disability legislation. The response was: “We have discussed your interpretation of the Equalities Act with our resident equalities expert and we are of the opinion that we are taking the best possible action in this respect“. Umm… Strange, given that the work ‘pedestrian’, ‘wheelchair’ and ‘buggy’ don’t even appear in the text.

Here is my proposed replacement text: “a) Bins MUST NOT be left in a position where they create a safety hasard. b) Bins MUST NOT be left in a position where the available footway is reduced to less than 1m and should not left in a position where the width is reduced to less than 1.5m. Bins can often be returned to a position just inside the curtilage of the property. Where this is not possible they may be left on the footway or carriageway as long as the conditions in a) and b) are satisfied. Where no viable option exists then alternative provision for the collection of waste will need to be arranged. This policy is to ensure that all road users, including pedestrians, some whom may require additional width (wheel chair users, people with buggies and shopping and those with visual impairments) are able to use the highway safely“.

Here’s the reason why a change is needed. In these two following pictures there is no space for a wheelchair user of parent with a buggy to use the pavement when the current guidelines are following. In both cases it would however be trivial for the bins to be returned within the curtillage.

Bins left blocking the pavement after collection

Bin left on pavement with 400mm between bin and lamp-post.

The law is very clear on this. Lets start with Department for Transport guidance on the ‘Pedestrian environment and transport infrastructure’:

  • “Since October 1999 service providers have had to take reasonable steps to change practices, policies and procedures which make it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people to use a service … These requirements apply to facilities and services in the pedestrian environment’.
  • “Those who are travelling with small children or are carrying luggage or heavy shopping will all benefit from an accessible environment, as will people with temporary mobility problems (e.g. a leg in plaster) and many older people. Thus, the overall objective of this guide is to provide inclusive design and through that achieve social inclusion
  • “Manual wheelchair users need sufficient space to be able to propel the chair without banging their elbows or knuckles on door frames or other obstacles. But someone who walks with sticks or crutches also needs more space than a non-disabled walker; so too does a long cane user or person carrying luggage, or a lot of shopping bags, or with small children. Thus providing adequate clear space on pavements, along passages in public buildings, through doorways etc, is of benefit to many people.

And also the DirectGov guidance re the Equalities Act 2010:

  • The Equality Act 2010 provides important rights not to be discriminated against or harassed in accessing everyday goods and services like shops, cafes, banks, cinemas and places of worship… The Equality Act 2010 gives disabled people rights not to be discriminated against or harassed in relation to the use of transport services. This also covers access to travel infrastructure such as railway stations and bus stations. You also have a right to reasonable adjustments.

And here is a helpful diagram published by the DfT showing the pavement width required by these different groups of pedestrians. Is it however unfortunate that the diagram is so hard to read which probably goes against their own guidance on legibility, but we can’t have everything!

Pavement widths required by different user groups (DfT guidance)

Finally, here are a set of photos illustrating the ‘reasonable adjustments’ that I am proposing to the council. The photos on the left show where the council leave bins currently and on the right you can see where I am suggesting they should be left to allow free passage (or as good as can be achieved with all the pavement parking!).

Bins after collection (as now on the left, and as proposed on the right)

I will be sending a copy of this post to the council and ask them to reconsider. If that doesn’t work then possibly the local paper would be interested in taking this on as a local issue.

Sheds, cycle stores, planters and sofas…

1 Aug

I was reminded yesterday that once upon a time people who parked on the highway took care to park facing in the direction of travel and to use parking lights at night. It is a long time since I heard of either these regulations being enforced and to be honest had forgotten all about them so I have done some investigating. Some things have changed in the intervening period but some have not. Here are the current regulations:

  • “You MUST NOT park on a road at night facing against the direction of the traffic flow unless in a recognised parking space” (Highway Code rule 248, Road Vehicles Construction and Use Regulations 1986 Section 101, Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 1989 section 24).
  • “Goods vehicles exceeding 1525 kg [which include Ford Transits  btw] MUST NOT be left on a road at night without lights [regardless of the speed limit]” (Highway code rule 250, Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 1989 section 24).
  • “All vehicles MUST display parking lights when parked at night within 10 meters of a junction [regardless of speed limit]”. (Highway code rule 249, Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 1989 section 24).
  • “All vehicles MUST display parking lights when parked on a road or a lay-by on a road with a speed limit greater than 30 mph” (Highway code rule 249, Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 1989 section 24).
  • Then of course there are of course the rules that you must not drive on the pavement (Highway Code rule 145) and rule 239 which says something along the lines of ‘you should not park on the highway unless you have to’ which is of course completely pointless without a clear definition of what ‘have to’ means.

A quick survey around where I live shows that there is an average of 1 contravention per parked vehicle which is quite an achievement given that a significant number of vehicles are parked legally. One commercial vehicle that was parked at night facing the wrong way with wheels up on the pavement without lights within 10 meters of a junction scoring a maximum 4 points. Many others scored 2 (wrong direction and up on the pavement).

Clearly the authorities are not enforcing these regulations and I am quite sure that no amount of encouragement will persuade them to start doing so. So why mention it at all? Only because if these authorities seem happy for people to do pretty much what they want to when if comes to leaving cars on the highway then possibly it is time to start leaving other interesting ‘stuff’ on the highway to stir things up a bit and get some debate going.

What would happen if a rash of sheds, planters, children’s play equipment, bicycle stores and sofas etc etc turned up on roads across the country. Each item would have a clear label saying that this was private property and an explanation of why it ‘had to be’ left of the highway. One person ‘had’ to leave a shed on the highway because there was not enough room for it in their  garden? another ‘had’ to put a cycle rack in the road because the front hall was not wide enough for people to get past if the cycle was kept indoors? and a third ‘had’ to put a kids swing in the road because it wouldn’t fit down the passageway beside the house, etc etc?.

When the authorities come after the owners then the owner will ask for confirmation that the law is going to be enforced fairly and will string things out. It would be visual and engaging for the media!

I am reminded of the splendid person who gave evidence to the parliament back in 2001 who saidIf pedestrians placed a chair on the carriageway it would be removed immediately, even though it would obstruct a smaller proportion of the road than when a car parks on the pavement. Cars could slow down and take care to avoid the chair, as pedestrians have to with parked cars. The Highways Act applies equally to the road and the footway. Pedestrians are being discriminated against“.

Any thoughts?

Ipswich Borough council 1 Pavement grabbers 0

1 Aug

I am pleased to say that I spotted a warden from the borough slapping warning notices on bins that were being left permanently on the pavement today. He said that he had issued a total of 600 stickers today in various locations around town where complaints had been made and that he was expecting to receive about 60 phone calls tomorrow saying it wasn’t fair! He did say that in most cases it was an effective deterent, especially the bit about the £1,000 fine. He was however interested to hear that Preston Council were planning to confiscate bins from people who ignored the warning and charge a more modest £20 for their return.

Bins sporting nice new warning notices

And a close up of the notice.

Close up of notice – warning of £1,000 fine

Preston City Council to confiscate wheelie-bins left on the pavement

4 Jul

Preston City Council has announced that it will remove bins left permanently on the pavement and charge people for their return. They approach will be to first leave yellow stickers, then a red ones and then confiscate them and charge the owners £11 to get them both. Both the labour and conservative groups support the move; deputy leader, Councillor John Swindells explained: “People have complained bitterly about them being out on the streets all the time.. we have tried with education and neighbourhood management teams. Residents requested further action be taken”.

Needless to say, one does not need to go to Preston to find bins left permanently on the pavement. Notice that these people living in my home town have actually got space on where they could store their bins on their land but choose instead to keep them on the pavement where they get in someone else’s way and create a pretty little garden on their patch. It makes a mockery of the dropped kerb; notice also that the bollards which were put their to keep the pavement clear of parked cars are now making the pavement even less usable. My council have said that it would be too difficult to do anything about it and have not followed up my complaint with any letters or whatever.

Bins on pavement with pretty private garden behind

Confirmation again that motorists come first…

18 May

Having been rebuffed by the council waste team in relation to my request that bins are not left after collection where they obstruct pedestrians in what I consider to be an illegal manner I decided to ask one of the bin men themselves why they left them on the pavement rather than within the property. He was initially a bit defensive but then said ‘the first thing we are told is not to block driveways because otherwise motorists will have to stop in the road to move them and it will cause havoc‘. He also claimed that they never obstruct the pavement, by which I assume he meant ‘totally block the pavement’. He acknowledge that they did also leave bins on the pavement even where there was already a car on the driveway so it was unlikely that it would ’cause havoc’ to put them back where they got them from!

I then took a walk up the pavement to see how usable it was and it didn’t take long to find this example where there was only 400mm between the edge of the bin and the kerb, which is about half the width of a typical external door to a house! Two photos, one where the binmen had left it and another where I consider that they should have left it.

400mm remaining

Where they should have left it

Challenging the local bin policy

5 May

I have now had a response to my query to Ipswich Borough Council in regard to why bins are left in just about the worst place they could be for pedestrians by their contractors after they have been emptied. The council confirmed that their contractors are instructed to leave bins “on the curtillage of the property… not obstructing residents’ driveways, preventing usage of drop kerbs etc” which they described as being the ‘safest position‘ as it didn’t risk damage to cars which she considered would be the case if the bins were left in line with the parked cars as I had proposed. Not a single mention of the needs of pedestrians in general and the blind and wheelchair users in particular. Not exactly what seems to be  required under the Equalities Act 2010 which came into force in October 2010 and provides ‘A basic framework of protection against direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation in services and public functions; premises; work; education; associations, and transport‘.

As it happened it was bin-day today and also polling day today so I was able to sample a few pavements on the route to my local polling station just after the bins had been collected. As you can see from the pictures below (on the left ) the bins were generally left in a position where they were obstructing the pavement. I moved them to a more sensible pave where I proposed that they should be left (on the right) which was often on the relevant driveway only a very short distance from where it had been left by the binmen.

Bins after collection (as now on the left, and as proposed on the right)

Update: Since making the above post I have noticed that the contractors leave bins in a much more obstructive way than the householders did. Check out the pictures below – the images on the left were taken just before the bin collection showing that the householders left them on the edge of their property sensibly, the images on the right show how to binmen then left them all over the footway.

Before bin collection on the left and afterward on the right

More bins on the pavement and silence from the council

3 May

I have been writing to my council and my local councilor and have been leaving reports on FixMyStreet since October 2010 in relation to bins left on pavements. I am writing to the relevant officer again today.

Here are some new photos from over the weekend from one housing area in Ipswich. The first two pictures show the way that the pavement is being used for the permanent storage of bins by some, but not all, residents; the last one shows bins left scattered all over the only part of the pavement available for pedestrians after they have been emptied by the council contractors in a way that I believe is illegal under the Equality Act 2010

Bins along a very narrow pavement

More bins on the pavement

Bin assault course on collection day

Update: The council have now responded and said that they do follow up complaints about bins being left permanently on the pavement and get them moved. Lets now see what happens. They have however said they won’t change the instructions to their binmen on where to leave the empty bins which I am going to challenge them on.