Wales & West Utilities fined £18,000 for Whittington traffic management offences
Wales & West Utilities Limited has been ordered to pay more than £18,000 for traffic management offences in Whittington in June 2023 and August 2023, in a prosecution brought by Shropshire Council.
On Monday 5 February 2024 at Telford Magistrates Court, the company pleaded guilty to six breaches and failures to maintain and operate a traffic management system in accordance with the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991 and the Traffic Management Permit Scheme (England) Regulations 2007.
They were fined a total of £12,068, plus costs of £4,000 and a victims’ surcharge of £2,000 – a total of £18,068.
The company had applied for a major works permit for works on Station Road, Whittington, Oswestry between 12 June 2023 and 21 July 2023, and further works on or about 24 August 2023. After starting the works – and following inspections by Shropshire Council highways inspectors – there were concerns that the works were carried out in a way that posed a significant safety risk to the public.
Despite being informed of the inadequacies, and an agreement being reached in a site meeting on how to continue the works in a safer manner, the operatives repeatedly failed to make the necessary provisions to make the site safe.
Chris Schofield, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for planning and regulatory services, said:
“Shropshire Council is responsible for regulating works taking place on our network of roads, and any avoidable breaches that disrupt the flow of traffic and safety of the network are taken extremely seriously, as this prosecution shows.
“The location of the works directly outside a primary school, and on a busy A road, exacerbated an already non-compliant site to the point where there were serious concerns that an accident could have occurred. It is clear that Wales & West should have carried out more vigilant prior planning and risk assessment, which would have meant that the issues would have been identified beforehand and been better catered for.
“Furthermore, the repeated failure to adhere to permit conditions, along with working without a permit on an adjacent street, further highlights the council’s concerns regarding the company’s ability to plan and carry out their works appropriately.”
A highways inspector visited the site on 16 June 2023 and found the permanent pedestrian crossing had been switched off without council authorisation, and temporary traffic lights had been set up with a temporary pedestrian crossing. However, due to the bus stop, shop and post office, there was still a high volume of uncontrolled traffic movements taking place, which was deemed as dangerous, in particular for the pedestrians using the crossing.
There was also an excavation on Castle Street that did not have a permit in place: working without a permit is a breach of the Traffic Management Permit Scheme (England) Regulations 2007.
Repeat site visits were made on 19 June, 20 June, 21 June and 22 June 2023 to follow up on the issues raised. However, the concerns over the uncontrolled traffic movements and pedestrians remained, and further breaches were identified, including a failure to deploy a traffic marshal to assist pedestrians, despite agreeing to do so.
In August 2023 – during work to reset some kerbs – an inspector found that that there were no operatives on site and the temporary traffic lights were not being manually controlled as specified under a permit condition. In addition, the site information board present on site was inadequate, not in the correct format, was facing live traffic and was illegible.
Following a consideration in respect of an appropriate sentence the Court ordered the following:
- For offences 1 and 5 (Level 5) breaches of the New Road and Street Works Act 1991: a fine of £2,700 for each offence = £5,400
- For offences 2, 3, 6 & 7 (Level 4) breaches of the Traffic Management Permit Scheme (England) Regulations 2007: a fine of £1,667 for each offence (x 4) = £6,668
- Costs: £4,000
- Victims surcharge: £2,000