Council urged to fine utility firms for shoddy and delayed roadworks

Vehicles in gridlock in Hawes Picture: LDRS.

Utility firms should be fined for failing to complete planned maintenance on time and for shoddy work to repair roads, elected community representatives have claimed.

A North Yorkshire Council meeting heard senior council officers were examining whether utility firms could be fined from the day their repairs failed to when they were put right amid escalating frustration being expressed by residents and other businesses.

The authority’s Richmond constituency committee was told Yorkshire Water had rejected a request for its senior managers to appear before the committee to explain why its planned works in the Upper Dales market town of Hawes had sparked traffic chaos in May.

As the one-way traffic light system put in place by contractors for the utility firm failed, cars and artic lorries squeezed past each other on the cobbled Main Street for more than a day, with many vehicles driving along the pavement, narrowly avoiding pedestrians, including children.

Numerous motorists sounded their horns in frustration and at one point two drivers had a 15-minute “stand-off” refusing to move back.

After the incident Yorkshire Water apologised for the disruption and said it would “make sure lessons are learned from this incident”.

However, councillors were told Yorkshire Water had since met council officers, where the “anger and deep dissatisfaction that there is with Yorkshire Water” was expressed to them.

Yorkshire Water had, the committee heard, given assurances it was examining the issue and that regular meetings between the council and the water firm were set to take place to prevent a recurrence of the Hawes incident.

Councillors heard a number of actions, such as improving its communications and taking on board local residents’ views, had been agreed by the firm.

The committee’s chair, Councillor Yvonne Peacock, said although she had initially wanted the firm to face questions from elected representatives, Yorkshire Water’s refusal to do so had led to “possibly a better outcome”, as the firm was now working with the council’s officers on a range of schemes.

The Upper Dales councillor added: “We don’t want a diversion taking us a round trip of 90 miles just because you’ve got a hole in the ground.”

Councillors said while most of the utility companies were not acting responsibly, Northumbrian Water had recently set an example by working with the authority to avert unnecessary traffic issues.

Councillor Heather Moorhouse, who represents Great Ayton, added: “If we increased the fines by the minute I think we might get a very different action. That they can just clear off on a Friday of a bank holiday weekend and leave a gap in the road… ”

“Emergency works is one thing, but planned maintenance is another. They make a lot of money. We should start charging them as the police do.”

Richmond councillor Stuart Parsons said firms across the county were seeing utility companies repeatedly disrupting their business by failing to properly repair roads after cable and pipe-laying works and then taking years to rectify poor quality work.


  1. Totally agree with our Councillors, but the fines should be as high as possible to hit these utility companies where it hurts. Otherwise they will just be absorbed as ‘expenses’.

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