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[3 RESPONSES] Pavement Danger in the Snow

Thursday 1 January 1970, 00:00
By David Winter

Sir

Although I don't live in Wincanton, I seem to spend much of my time in the town and I could not but notice the dreadful state of the paths in the High Street during the recent snowy weather. The snow had been trodden down into sheet ice and so for several days were incredibly dangerous to walk on. In fact pedestrians chose to walk in the road for comparative safety; for not one owner had bothered to clear the snow from the front of their shop. May I suggest the Town Council consider a bye law obliging occupiers of premises in the town centre to keep these pavements free of snow and ice. Whilst I am in a complaining mood, following a change in the weather, rain water flowing down the High Street on the south side passes over most of the drains which have been blocked for years spilling onto the pavements and sometimes down gratings in front of shops. Come on Town Council - how about it!

David Winter

David Winter's complaint is one I heard from several other people when the freeze was on and our pavements certainly were pretty lethal.
- Editor


31st January 2010

Sam Skirton, Wincanton Town ClerkI quite understand the frustration felt by David Winter regarding the snow on our pavements. The Town Council however has limited options as regards what it can do. Firstly the responsibility for road clearance lies with the County Council and due to the shortage of grit/salt, pavements were left. This then was something we had no control over. Some shop owners chose to clean outside their shops, but most didn't because, should someone slip and injure themselves after a proprietor has cleaned the area, they will be held legally responsible.
 
The Town Council can only clear the pavements/roads with express permission from the County Highways department. I tried to obtain salt/grit to clear the worst parts of the town, but to no avail. There is a problem with the drains in the Town Centre and we are in contact with the County Council to clear them.

Sam Skirton

Wincanton Town Clerk.


1st February 2010

Mandy Cochrane, The Office ElfTown Clerk Sam Skirton may be quoting the letter of the law when she states that shop keepers might be held legally responsible for accidents if they clear snow from outside their premises.

However, I also recall an interview with a solicitor on the local evening news being asked for his opinion on this very matter. In summary, he said that in his expert opinion, no judge would come down against a public-spirited member of the community who attempted to do his or her bit to make their little patch of pavement a safer place to walk.

Do we have any Wincanton solicitors willing to venture an opinion on this?

Should we do the right thing, or pass the responsibility to someone else?

Mandy Cochrane
http://www.theofficeelf.co.uk


2nd February 2010

Having been a Wincanton resident for more than 30 years, I sympathise whole heartedly with David Winter. I have known David for many years now and his thoughts on this matter show genuine concern for our town and it's residents.

However, I also agree with Sam Skirton's reply. Our Town Council is very limited in what it can do. With a very limited budget and authority over such matters, our council works exceedingly hard for us to ensure the safety of our residents. Unfortunately we are not subject to such weather conditions on a regular basis, so to keep ample stocks of the relevant materials just for the odd occasion would become a huge financial burden for our town.

Sadly we live in an increasingly litigious society, following closely behind our relatives across the Atlantic. In law precedents are forever being set, and this leads to a genuine fear by all parties, that if they even do something which the majority would agree to be common sense, we could indeed end up in court being sued. As in many cases, the vast majority of residents, if they slipped in such conditions on an area cleared by a well meaning trader, would put it down to being unfortunate. However, there are one or two out there who take the unfortunate attitude that if they fall, someone has to pay for it. The one bad apple that spoils the barrel for all of us. In short we are frightened to even try to do good in many cases because there is a real fear that it could come back to bite us. I am sure that solicitors can find ample precedents to put before a court showing someone somewhere who successfully sued and was handsomely compensated. If we want to stop this we need an easy to use vehicle that can allow us, with hindsight to judge that a precedent was unwise, or over the top, and therefore can be nullified, or amended, without costing a shed load of money that the average resident clearly does not have. Apologies if this sounds like a sledge hammer to crack a nut, but from the High Street Trader point of view, life is already very difficult in these financially challenging times, without being given even heavier burdens. So, unfortunately, although it sound simple to say “buy some rock salt and clear your path”, the end result can all to easily become a nightmare.

In short I am not too sure if there is an easy, clear cut answer to this one. I am sure that everyone concerned would welcome positive suggestions, but please bear in mind the possible ramifications both in terms of finance and the law.

John Smith

Chairman WBT (Wincanton Businesses Together)




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