The stone wall on Briggate fell onto the highway on September 14 this year.
Fortunately, nobody was injured on what is one of the town’s busiest routes for pedestrians and motorists — but traffic lights have caused delays and disruption ever since.
Several residents and councillors have told the Stray Ferret they contacted the council about the wall before it fell. We were also told the council had a safety report on the wall.
Nearly three months on, the council has yet to respond to these claims.
Cllr Hannah Gostlow, a Liberal Democrat who represents Knaresborough East on North Yorkshire Council, alerted the council in an email on June 16 last year.
Her message, seen by the Stray Ferret, said several old stone walls in Knaresborough needed “investigating and possibly monitoring for safety”, with Briggate top of the list.
“I am unsure who owns each wall but in each case they would either impact a road or path if they were to break down, and could potentially be a risk to life and also their repair could cause significant congestion in the town.”
Cllr Gostlow (pictured), who is also the current Knaresborough mayor, told the Stray Ferret:
“This issue was widely known about by residents and councillors.”
After the wall collapsed, Briggate resident Catherine Rogerson told the Stray Ferret she had reported the structure to North Yorkshire Council the previous month because it appeared to be buckling. She added:
“I said it was an emergency and could collapse, causing a nasty accident.
“Several other local people have also contacted them about it. We all stressed it was in a dangerous state.”
Failed to act
When the wall came down, we asked the council to respond to Ms Rogerson’s claims.
Melisa Burnham, the council’s highways area manager, said traffic lights would remain in place until repairs to the wall are carried out and “we are liaising with residents of nearby properties and are in discussions with contractors to ensure the work is completed as quickly as possible”.
We replied to the council’s media office, which handles all media enquiries, to say Ms Burnham’s response did not address the claims the council had failed to act on warnings.
However, we did not receive a response so we subsequently submitted a freedom of information request asking how many people had complained about the state of the wall in the previous two years and what action the council had taken. We also asked to be sent the council safety report.
Public bodies are supposed to respond to freedom of information requests within 20 working days.
After six weeks without a response, we pursued the matter with the council this week. It said the delay was “due to the request initially being under the incorrect service area” and a response would be sent “as soon as possible”.
Cllr Matt Walker who represents Knaresborough West said the council’s response since the wall collapsed has been wholly inadequate. He said:
“The council have avoided answering questions including providing a safety report that was done days before the wall fell. I wonder why?
“A full investigation needs to be done to understand why it happened in the first place and lessons learned. Residents have lost faith in the highways team to do anything and so have I.”
Cllr Walker also said he had received several reassurances work would start at the beginning of November but it only began on November 27, causing weeks of traffic lights around the unattended rubble.
At one point there were reports on social media of fed-up residents attempting to remove the rubble themselves.
That never happened and now the rubble is off the highway, but traffic lights remain.
Karl Battersby, the council’s corporate director for environment, said on November 22 the “works are now more complex than first anticipated” because of residents’ concerns about the cellars that were impacted by the collapsed wall”.
Roadworks are usually prohibited during Knaresborough’s annual Christmas Market Weekend, which begins today.
But the ongoing saga of the wall means they will continue to operate on Briggate, and are likely to do so for many weeks to come.
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