VALE of Glamorgan council expects to receive £11,000 this year from charging drivers to cross the pavement to get to their own driveways.
Over the last few months drivers in parts of Barry have received letters from the council saying they must pay for contractors to install dropped kerbs outside their homes.
The letters warn crossing the pavement without an “appropriately constructed vehicular crossing” could be illegal, and applying for permission to fix the problem costs £215.
A new residents group has formed to object to the recent council policy, but council bosses are refusing to meet with the group to hear their concerns.
The controversy, first revealed in January, sparked a heated debate during a meeting of the full council on Monday, September 20. Council bosses insisted the dropped kerbs are needed for safety reasons, and denied claims the policy is a money-making scheme.
Council leader Neil Moore said: “It’s our wish to work with the residents on achieving safe and properly constructed footway crossovers, should they wish to continue using the public footpath after being issued with a letter indicating that no current permission is in place.”
Affected residents claim paying contractors for the work to drop kerbs can cost more than £1,000, leaving many struggling to pay. The council also charges £215 for each application to ‘regularise’ the arrangement, and expects to receive £11,000 this financial year in fees.
Cllr Moore said “This is not about revenue or income schemes. It’s about doing the right thing in ensuring the safety of all highway users is not compromised.
“But based on the number of applications received to date, we estimate the amount of income for 2021–22 will be in the region of £11,000. This income will only partly contribute to the officers’ time associated with issuing the licences and monitoring.
“It should be noted that there is a current budget shortfall in neighbourhood services and transport of about £1.25 million. But it’s nothing to do with that, it’s to do with the safety and the requirements of the law.”
Earlier this month Alun Cairns, MP for the Vale of Glamorgan, held a meeting to hear the concerns of local residents. A campaign group has now been formed to challenge the council on the issue.
Cllr Leighton Rowlands asked the council leader if he planned to meet the community group to hear their concerns on the dropped kerb policy.
Cllr Moore said: “As this isn’t in my portfolio, I don’t have any plans to meet with the residents. I think you’re referring to something by the local MP, who has stirred things up.
“If there are people who are concerned then they can come to us and our offices and we will work with them. There is no point in having a public meeting about where it relates to individuals. If individuals wish to correspond with us, we are more than happy to do so.”
One issue with the policy is if drivers on some affected streets park on the road, instead of on their driveways, larger vehicles like ambulances would struggle to pass through.
Cllr Vince Bailey said: “Leighton Rowlands and I recently spent an hour with residents on Winston Road where affected residents who have had these letters collectively opted to legally park on the highway instead of on their driveways, as advised if they didn’t want to pay to upgrade their kerbs.
“What quickly became clear was that delivery vans couldn’t get through the street, never mind refuse collection teams or perhaps more worryingly a larger emergency services vehicle such as a fire engine or an ambulance.”
In response to these concerns, Cllr Peter King, cabinet member for neighbourhood services and transport, said the controversial dropped kerb policy should not be debated publicly. He added he was “working tirelessly to try and help each case”.
He said: “Stop making it into a public debate. It is a confidential debate. I know of an example where somebody went to sell a home after their parents had passed away, and when the solicitors did due diligence they found the crossover was not reported. As a consequence the sale was delayed and fell through.
“If you want me to make this terribly public, then I need written instruction from every single resident who you’re asking me to deal with publicly. Because I don’t think it’s right for me to do that.
“My officers and I are working tirelessly to try and help each individual case. That’s why there have been no prosecutions.”