Our housing reporter BARRATT HOLMES on the latest troubling development by Brick by Brick
Brick by Brick, the council-owned housing developer (Total number of homes built since 2015: ZERO), has been accused of “putting safety last” on a site in the town centre, after hoardings went up last week to block off pavements that forced pedestrians to walk in the busy road, dodging on-coming traffic.
There were no safety notices, nor any temporary road crossings – as provided for in the project’s planning application – when Brick by Brick’s contractors started work on the site, at the junction of Drummond Road and Ann’s Place last Friday.
Such inconsiderate, and indeed dangerous, practice by a private builder would usually see firm action taken by the relevant authority. But since Brick by Brick is owned by Croydon Council, it seems unlikely that the local authority will be reporting Brick by Brick to the Health and Safety Executive any time soon.
Instead, staff at Brick by Brick were sent scurrying to cover-up the absence of any signage or safe crossings on Drummond Road after Inside Croydon’s loyal reader flagged up the hazardous nature of the building site and public street last Friday morning.
At first, Brick by Brick approached the matter somewhat casually.
Some Twitterer in Fisher’s Folly pushed out this message, supposedly of reassurance, on the Brick by Brick account: “Hi, thanks for your tweet. As part of the construction of new homes at Ann’s Place/Drummond Road we are hoarding out both sides of the pavement, a safety measure for pedestrians. Two zebra crossings will also be installed. We are sorry for any inconvenience caused to you.”
What the Brick by Brick staffer probably didn’t realise is that the resident who raised these genuine concerns was probably more familiar with the law, and the builders’ safety obligations to the public, than Brick by Brick appeared to be.
“It’s not about being inconvenienced,” the concerned resident replied.
“It’s about legal obligations under the Safety at Street Works and Road Works Code of Practice. How about putting in some barriers so that pedestrian safety isn’t compromised? When are the zebra crossings going to be installed?”
The original complaint was also raised with Croydon Council and a Fairfield ward councillor, though the resident says that they have never had any response from either over the concerns they raised.
The road crossings, as planning condition, really ought to have been in place before the construction works started, and before the pedestrian walkway was blocked off to facilitate the works.
As it was, the hoardings positioned by Brick by Brick’s contractors were forcing people heading for the nearby bus stop to walk in the road along with vehicle traffic.
By the early evening, Brick by Brick’s desperation to cover-up the safety lapses had seen someone sent across town to tie or staple a few temporary signs to the hoardings and snap a couple of ill-lit pictures on their mobile phone.
Whoever was staffing the Brick by Brick account issued a message on social media, copying in Croydon Council (though, notably, not including Inside Croydon. It’s almost as if they felt they had something to hide…).
Timed at 4.01pm, it said, “Temp[orary] signage is displayed advising pedestrians to use the other footpath, access via the pelican crossing. Permanent signage will be displayed from Mon[day] next week and the Council have instructed their contractor to install the zebra crossings. Pls DM us…” that is, let’s not have any more of this embarrassment out in the public domain, “… if you need more info.”
Our correspondent was unimpressed.
“Brick by Brick are putting safety last,” said our eagle-eyed and quick-witted reporter.
“There were no signs in the pictures I took this morning. So now they show pictures of signs. Have they been caught on the hop?
“Compliance is the issue here. The contractor’s management of safety has been poor, and the council should have set down requirements so that either the hoardings weren’t on the pavement or protected walkways were installed.
“Why weren’t the crossings installed before the hoardings went up?
“If they can’t get safety right from the start, before starting work, it doesn’t hold much hope for when the work begins.”
Meanwhile, Brick by Brick has moved in on another town centre site, though this time not for any construction work.
They’ve taken on one of the vacant shops – it was previously a travel agent’s – on George Street.
“So the council is doing their old mate, Richard Plant at estate agents Stiles Harold Williams, a bit of a favour by renting out one of their retail portfolio that no one else wants to take,” a Town Hall source said today.
“Another outstanding use of public funds, I’m sure,” they added, not altogether seriously.
The showroom, what Brick by Brick call “Our new BXB shop”, is supposed to showcase the housing they have yet to build and provide “advice and guidance on financing and purchasing options”.
All of Brick by Brick’s properties are being built on public-owned land, using public finance. More than half of all Brick by Brick housing will be going for private sale.
The decision too open the shop in the town centre location may yet backfire on the council house-builders: residents’ associations and activist groups from across the borough who have been adversely affected by Brick by Brick developments in their neighbourhoods are already planning to picket the shop to deter potential customers.
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