Councillors and residents say they feel like they were left in the dark over plans to close St Peter's Bridge for three months as Burton comes to a gridlock.
Paul Walker, who represents Shobnall on East Staffordshire Borough Council, was joined by Syed Hussain, Staffordshire County Councillor for Burton, and resident Michael Glass to raise his concerns over the lack of information before the bridge closed.
Councillor Walker says he was not part of any meetings to discuss the diversion routes for drivers and he continues to receive complaints from residents and business owners over the chaos caused by the closure.
The councillor said he was not aware of any plans for the bridge closure prior to the first story in the Burton Mail. In defence of Staffordshire County Council a spokesman said that once the funding had been announced by the Department for Transport, they had to start work almost immediately so had to turn the project around very quickly with no time for local consultation.
The authority was not aware it was a winner of the National Highway Fund Challenge until it was announced last month, although the actual deadline for original submissions was in early 2015 and it has been in the public domain since.
A council spokesman said the campaign to secure the funding to repair the bridge has been a long-standing one in Burton and an announcement on the challenge fund bids had been expected earlier in the year, but was delayed because of the snap general election.
She said that the authority had been working closely with all local county councillors including on programme delivery since the announcement. Other stakeholders including East Staffordshire Borough Council, the NHS, emergency services, the Chamber of Commerce and schools were all informed.
Councillor Walker said: "There are many, many issues with this work. I am the local councillor who has concerns for the local businesses, especially in my ward where there are a lot of taxi drivers who are raising a lot of complaints.
"The first I knew about it was in the Burton Mail. Why was there no meetings with councillors and businesses in Burton over the diversion route? The town has just been gridlocked.
"This affects every single person in the town and we are now coming in to the run-up to the busiest time of year."
The council explained that St Peter's Bridge is an A road so the official diversion has to be via the A roads, although residents are finding their own routes. The traffic order/planning could only be published after the announcement.
The authority said all local councillors had been involved since the announcement and some had previously been involved in lobbying for the funding.
One question raised by resident Mr Glass was about whether the workers should be on the job 24 hours a day, reducing the amount of time the bridge is closed.
He said: "I have calculated that three months of work doing it their way could be done in one month if there are three shifts a day. It would save the environment and pollution from people stuck in traffic as all of that could be shortened."
However, the council spokesman said that the work was being carried out between 7.30am and 10.30pm and at weekends already.
She explained that the work taking place is a complex engineering project and due to a combination of the nature of the works, funding, availability of crews to work round the clock and, crucially, safety, 24-hour work is not feasible.
The spokesman added that all emergency services were statutory consultees and had been made aware of the closure and diversion route.
Mark Deaville, Staffordshire County Council's cabinet member with overall responsibility for the scheme, said: "Although there has been a long-standing campaign locally for this vital work to be carried out, the Government only announced the funding in August.
"Despite this incredibly short notice we have been working hard to ensure this project can be delivered within the timescale required.
"This has included working closely with local county councillors, bus operators, the NHS, emergency services, local councils etc to make sure people know why the scheme is absolutely necessary and what it will involve.
"Without these essential improvements to St Peter's Bridge, lorries and buses would soon be banned and ultimately it would close for good, causing a catastrophic effect on local journeys and the town's long-term economy.
"Although we have done everything we can to minimise disruption, on a scheme of this scale delays, particularly at busy times, are inevitable and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the people of Burton for their patience and understanding as these crucial works are carried out."
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