Court hears villagers’ safety put at risk during broadband installation works
A not-for-profit broadband group has been fined £1,400 after motorists and pedestrians were put at risk when road works were not set up safely in an Eden Valley village.
Michael Lee, chief executive of Broadband for the Rural North (B4RN), accepted a financial penalty on behalf of the community-led project when he appeared at Carlisle Magistrates’ Court.
Magistrates heard B4RN was a not-for-profit organisation committed to bringing high speed internet connectivity to hard-to-reach areas of the region.
But a prosecution was brought by Cumbria County Council on behalf of its highways department as a result of failings by B4RN at Fetherston Hill in Kirkoswald on 26 May this year.
These were seen by a street works inspector who attended the site at 8:20am.
“Essentially, the work wasn’t set up safety,” said Jonathan Farnworth, prosecuting. “It was a risk to drivers. It was a risk to pedestrians.”
The site lacked warning signs, two-way traffic lights and a pedestrian walkway.
Mr Farnworth described a “traffic sensitive road, a traffic sensitive time with school starting at 9am”.
“He noted the only pavement was blocked and there was no other option for pedestrians other than to walk in the road around the particular works,” he said of the inspector.
There were no signs advising the works to drivers approaching from either direction on what is a steep slope.
The prosecutor added: “There is a potential for a collision there. That was a concern.”
A woman with small children had described having to reach her house by parking a car nearby and walking in the road with the youngsters.
On behalf of B4RN, Mr Lee admitted a charge of failing to comply with safety measures.
Mr Lee outlined in detail — and Mr Farnworth accepted — steps swiftly taken by B4RN to rectify matters. A full root cause investigation was launched within hours and findings were shared with the county council.
“I would like to fully acknowledge we were at fault,” Mr Lee told magistrates.
“We at B4RN consider this situation to be totally unacceptable. We have taken this incredibly seriously.”
There had been no previous incidents in the past 10 years.
“We very much want this to be the last,” said Mr Lee. "We have made changes throughout the organisation to try and ensure it does not happen again.”
Magistrates imposed a £1,400 fine plus £651.64 costs.
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