National Grid meeting is branded ‘a shambles’ as questions remain over emergency access during gas works

Cavendish Road in Clare is set to be closed for gas works.

Cavendish Road in Clare is set to be closed for gas works. - Credit: Archant

An energy company has been accused of “playing with life and death” as people expressed concerns over access for emergency vehicles during a lengthy summer road closure.

More than 100 people turned out at Clare Town Hall on Tuesday evening to learn more about National Grid’s planned gas mains replacement works for up to seven weeks from mid July, which will involve the closure of Cavendish Road.

But the meeting was branded a “shambles,” with representatives from National Grid and its contractor tRIIO told by members of the public that they should have been better prepared.

People even stormed out before the end as frustrations grew.

Clare Town Councillor Gayle Mallows, chair of the Clare Playing Fields Association, said: “We are very concerned about the fact we need our emergency vehicles to get through and we are getting mixed messages here.”

Stephen Dadelszen, who owns printing firm EBF Smart Inprint which has a factory in Chilton Street, added: “You are playing with life and death.”

As the meeting progressed, Tim Welsh, technical manager for Suffolk County Council network assurance, said he felt he had to speak despite being there in a personal capacity.

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“We expect each emergency service to put their own action plan together.”

He added: “Yes, the diversion is massive, but we have had to approve the diversion to the law - an a-class road [has to be diverted] to an a-class road.”

He said he had pushed for a road closure, highlighting the importance of keeping workmen and traffic separate.

Alaric Pugh, St Edmundsbury Borough Councillor for Clare, said he was “extremely disappointed” issues raised in the meeting had not been picked up before, “but let’s hope this is a learning experience for everybody and no other towns have to go through this range of problems in the future without immediate solutions”.

Afterwards, chairman of Clare Town Council Paul Bishop described the meeting as a “bit of a shambles”.

“We want another meeting where there’s answers,” he said.

Ms Mallows said during the road closure there would be free parking at the pavilion at the playing fields.

“It’s so residents can park there and we want the people of Cavendish and Long Melford to know Clare is open,” she said.

Other concerns raised during the meeting included access for buses and the length of the diversion.

A National Grid spokeswoman said they would be examining all the issues raised and would respond to people’s concerns as soon as possible.

She said the firm had also met with officers from Suffolk County Council and Mary Evans, county councillor for Clare, who have emphasised the need to address “the very real and legitimate concerns” of local residents and businesses about the extent and scope of the disruption.

“National Grid has been in touch with the fire and ambulance services to make them aware of this work so that they can plan contingency arrangements. We will liaise directly with the emergency services and Suffolk County Council to share information with local people and address their concerns about emergency access.”

Cavendish Road will be closed from Church Street to Harp Lane while the work is being carried out.

Work will also take place in Church Lane for three weeks during August. Traffic management measures are likely to include temporary traffic lights.