‘Summer from hell’ in Bickington dust bowl

Bickington dust. Pic: Graham Hobbs.

Bickington dust. Pic: Graham Hobbs. - Credit: Archant

Contractor apologises after ‘poor’ road resurfacing leaves residents in dusty hell.

Bickington dust. Pic: Graham Hobbs.

Bickington dust. Pic: Graham Hobbs. - Credit: Archant

A choking dustbowl of grime and grit obscures everything in sight – welcome to Bickington in Barnstaple.

Bickington dust. Pic: Graham Hobbs.

Bickington dust. Pic: Graham Hobbs. - Credit: Archant

On Friday, contractors apologised to residents along the main Bickington Road for leaving cars, homes and gardens fouled with thick layers of clinging dust after ‘poor’ road resurfacing left the area looking like a suburb of Pompeii.

Splatters of tar and flying loose chippings have added to the misery on the busy route, with parts of Fremington and Instow also affected.

South West Highways has assured Devon County Council the repairs will be carried out at no cost to the tax payer after surface dressing with the specialist Fibredec material back fired when it melted in the heat wave.

It said sub-contractor Colas, employed by South West Highways to do the work, has accepted ‘the underlying problem started with its initial defective work on the road in May’.

Two months of work has seen no end to the problem – the road was resurfaced in May, had to be done again in June and then melted in the heat. Days of applying grit to try and contain the damage led to the infamous dust cloud.

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‘Dusting’ has now stopped and once temperatures fall, the road will be assessed before work to fix it at the contractor’s expense.

Other surface dressing work planned for the area, including Yelland, has now been postponed until next year.

In his report for a meeting of the county council tomorrow (Thursday) local County Councillor Frank Biederman had said it was a ‘summer of hell’ for people in the Fremington Rural ward, calling for compensation as well as an apology.

Following Friday’s announcement, he said: “The failure of the surface dressing has caused major problems for drivers and residents. Cars have been covered in dust and splattered with tar, and residents have not been able to open their windows at the hottest time of the year. I have raised these issues with the council’s highways officers and I welcome plans to sort out the problem as soon as possible.”

Bickington district Councillor Rodney Cann said an apology did not go far enough: “It has been a real nightmare and a prolonged ordeal for them.

“I think they have been victims of cost cutting and this really does not compensate for the misery of the past two months. I asked for this to be discussed at the local highways and traffic committee and I think Friday’s statement was a smoke screen to prevent that.”

Yelland residents have expressed their relief at dodging a ‘dust bullet’ after news of the postponement.

Mo Galvin, who is 78, suffers serious breathing problems with emphysema and has to be on oxygen, was dreading what might happen when the ‘Bickington blight’ moved on to Yelland.

“I’ve never known anything like it before, we have had road works but never all that dust,” she said.

“I need my car windows open to help me breathe, but going through Bickington I have to close everything as I choke on the dust. I had to be rushed into hospital a week ago and all that dust was frightening.”

Joanne Bell at West Yelland said she had contacted environmental health at North Devon Council but so far had no answer to when the dust posed a health hazard: “I want assurances from somebody that the dust happening in Bickington is not going to happen again here next year,” she said.

“Do they think they have a health problem with the dust they’ve already got? I don’t need environmental health people to tell me dust poses a health risk – everyone knows dust particles can cause respiratory problems.”

* Tell us what you think - has the Bickington dust blight made your life a misery? Post your comments on here or email newsdesk@northdevongazette.co.uk

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