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Council prosecutes utility company for breach of highways safety 

13 February 2018

A breach of highways safety precautions during a footway excavation has cost United Utilities Water Ltd more than £6,500 following a successful prosecution by Cheshire East Council.

United Utilities Water Ltd pleaded guilty to the offence at South Cheshire Magistrates Court, sitting at Crewe, and were fined £3,500 with £3,000 costs, plus a £170 victim surcharge.

The water and sewerage company admitted failing to ensure that the works were adequately safeguarded, causing pedestrians, including one person in a mobility scooter, to use a busy highway with passing traffic, to manoeuvre around the works.

The company pleaded guilty under the 1991 ‘New Roads and Street Works Act’ after a Cheshire East Council street works inspector carried out a random inspection of trench work being carried out in Hibel Road, Macclesfield, in June 2017.

A member of the public pointed out to the inspector his concern over signing and guarding arrangements, which had left insufficient space for pedestrians to walk round the site in safety.

A mobility scooter user was said to be at risk of toppling over into the busy road when manoeuvring round the site, while a mother with a pushchair and another child following, also struggled to use the narrow footway.

On returning to the site later the same day, the council inspector witnessed machinery being used to remove spoil operating over the footway ‘presenting a significant danger to any member of the public,’ the court was told.

Signing and guarding to both the footway and the stationary ‘grab wagon’ were insufficient, while a directional ‘Keep Right’ sign in the road was pointing in the wrong direction.

Contractors working for United Utilities Water Ltd told the inspector the traffic management arrangements were all that they had available to them. Councillor Don Stockton

Cheshire East Council argued that the contractors had worked in a dangerous manner, placing pedestrians at risk from passing traffic and demonstrated a disregard for their safety.

Councillor Don Stockton, cabinet member for environment, said: “We take no pleasure in prosecuting a utilities company for carrying out emergency repairs.  However, the safety of pedestrians and road users is paramount and we expect all contractors to operate in a safe manner and to ensure that all members of the public are not placed at any risk.”

A second charge of failing to apply for a permit from Cheshire East Council to carry out work in Station Street, Macclesfield, adjoining the Hibel Road excavation, was withdrawn by the council.