WORK finally started this week on the installation of dropped kerbs on the A31 at St Leonards in response to a request made years ago by St Leonard & St Ives Parish Council.
It is being carried out by Dorset County Council, which undertook to meet the cost of the traffic management work required after the Highways Authority indicated that they were unwilling to commit funding to what they acknowledged as their responsibility.
But it took a report from the County Council Highway Engineers and parliamentary questions from MP Chris Chope before the Highways Agency agreed that they were prepared to allow Dorset County Council to do the work which they had first been asked to carry out several years ago.
Councillor Mike Dyer, chairman of St Leonards and St Ives Parish Council, said: "The Highways Agency said when the problem of unsafe dropped kerbs was first reported to them that they were unwilling to commit the necessary expenditure until there was a major programme of work on the A31.
"Despite many requests from the parish council over several years, they refused to budge from this position.
"In my view, they have had opportunities when doing other work, but, for reasons I cannot fathom, did not take them.
"Dorset County Council were sympathetic, and through our local member Peter Richardson expressed willingness to help, but were unable to fully fund the work because of their own budget constraints.
"They said if the parish council were willing to pay for the cost of the work, they would fund the traffic management."
It meant contributing over £5,000, about seven per cent of the parish's annual precept, alongside the county's contribution of £18,000 to comply with the Highways Authority traffic management requirements.
"Parish councillors had very strong feelings about being asked to contribute on this scale, since highway work is not a parish council responsibility, and our funds are miniscule," said Councillor Dyer. "However, until the work is done there is a chance of injury to a vulnerable section of the community. They felt they had little choice but to step up to the plate, given the potential risk."
The parish council at their September meeting agreed that a one-off grant of £5,050 should be made to Dorset County Council to fund the relaying of the nine dropped kerbs which were considered a safety risk, particularly for mobility impaired residents living at Oaktree Park who wanted to cross the road on mobility scooters and had to ride on the carriageway.
Members noted that work had been carried out in this area by a variety of services and had not needed the extent of traffic management now required, and the kerbs were some distance from the carriageway.
It was also noted that the parish council, which had already contributed to speed restrictions in Boundary Lane, did not have the legal power to carry out repairs to the highway, and there was concern that working in partnership with the county could mean accepting other costs and responsibilities.
It was agreed that a one off grant should be made to Dorset County Council to carry out the work on the understanding that there would be no future responsibility.
At the October parish council meeting, local county councillor Peter Richardson, who had asked the county council to carry out the safety audit which persuaded the Highways Authority to give approval, confirmed that the work had now been signed off by the Highways Agency and that county officers, who had already put in a great deal of work to achieve it, were seeking a gap in their work schedules to get the work done as soon as possible.
Parish clerk Ann Jacobs said: "The Parish Council is extremely pleased to see that the work has now commenced on the kerbs as at 9th December and thanks the County Council for its considerable assistance. It is however a little surprised to see that the traffic management is actually cones on the pavement, although I am sure drivers of the A31 will be relieved not to have the inconvenience of delay."
She added: "Some of the kerbs required are outside the ambulance station, the hospital and along the main A31 dual carriageway, where users have had to utilise the hard shoulder and grass verge to get access to the pavement."