Lost Money?

At last week’s West Area Committee, Ron asked when a pedestrian crossing was going to be put at the Downhall Park Way / Rawreth Lane junction in Rayleigh.

The answer we got was surprising and disturbing. It seems that the developers of the Reads Nurery site (Kelso Close etc) had indeed been required to provide ?73,000 for a crossing as part of the planning permission.

But nothing had yet been done with the money, the cost had gone up by ?40,000 during the delay, and County Highways had kept the money for so long that they now had to hand it back to the developer.

Jaws dropped around the room. County Highways are chronically short of money – and yet ?73,000 was being handed back to a developer. We understand that safety issues always have to be sorted out with these things before work starts, but even so…. this is poor.

The Echo reported the story as follows:

A COUNCIL blunder has wasted more than ?70,000 earmarked for a pedestrian crossing at a dangerous junction.

Rochford district councillors were shocked to discover a ?73,000 contribution from a developer had to be handed back to the company because it had not been spent in time by Essex County Council’s highways department.

Residents renewed their campaign for a crossing at the junction of Rawreth Lane and Downhall Park Way, Rayleigh, after grandmother Updesh Porter suffered a broken nose and cheekbone and concussion after a collision with a car when crossing there in February.

Councillors heard at a meeting on Wednesday money had been earmarked for a crossing at the junction about six years ago.

As well as helping pedestrians, the crossing would also have been tailored to assist horse riders.

The cash was provided by developers who built housing on the junction and would have made up most of the total cost of the project, estimated at ?114,000.

Rayleigh councillor Chris Black said: “Because somebody was too slow, the money has been handed back. Is there much other money floating around, about to be lost?

“It looks like a major mess with ?73,000 of council money being lost – and highways complain about a lack of money for roads.”

Essex County Council spokes-man Scott Wilson confirmed the money had been handed back because the deadline was missed.

He said: “We are still working on getting the funds in place for the scheme.

“The crossing will cost more than was originally estimated and what the developers provided.”

Essex Highways announced last month a pedestrian crossing and extra lighting could be put in at the junction. Residents and councillors have long campaigned for a pedestrian crossing at the junction.

It’s not quite the end of the story – and there could still be a happy story. County Highways have started negotiating with the developer. They are also looking for funds from elsewhere, so maybe Ron asked his question in time to save the situation.

Even so , County Highways have apparently overspent their budget this year and losing ?73,000 won’t help. The County Council is , of course, Conservative at the moment, run by such senior people as Lord Hanningfield and Stephen Castle. We can’t help feeling that if the Lib Dems were running the County Council, the local Tories would never stop complaining about ‘poor financial management’….

  • This really does go to show how incompetent this council currently is. How can they sit on this money for so long and not use it? How many more people need to be injured because of their incompetence? How can they now justify an increase in our Council Tax when they throw money down the drain?

  • Corey, lets see what can be done first. I agree that any money that a Council loses is incompetent however lets see if the this money can be reimbursed by the developer. First of all we have to ascertain who the benefactor was and then we can get to work, even as residents and not yet as Councillors. People will see that we want to improve the quality of life for the people of this town.

  • Writing as the husband of the lady who was knocked down on 24/01/2008 at the Downhall Park Way/Rawreth Lane junction, we are both very disappointed to read that the very necessary and long-desired provision of this crossing has now been delayed and the local residents put at risk for at least another year, due to the ineptness of Essex Council to utilise the money that would have been available to them.

    I am sure that many of your readers will welcome the announcement that the crossing is going to be “tailored to assist horse riders”. However, I have to wonder whether, if, on that evening, it had been a horse that had been knocked down and badly injured rather than a human being, there would have been this initial inattention and subsequent delay?

  • Mr Porter, I think we would have seen the same delay whether a human adult or horse had been injured. If it been a child, we might have seen some quicker action, but it’s hard to tell.

    We certainly share your disappointment at the situation here.