DOWN THE DRAIN?

Greyfriars Garden
Greyfriars Garden

The recently completed so-called ‘‘upgrading’’of the pavement in Greyfriars Garden in the heart of the St Andrews town centre conservation area has been branded a disgrace by local residents.

Criticism of a contract carried out by the local authority comes hard on the heels of similar complaints in Cupar where footpath improvement works left a neighbourhood resembling a “war zone.”

The pavement in the St Andrews thoroughfare has uneven kerbstones, with many at different levels leading into properties, unsightly grout covers many of the Caithness slabs and the walls of buildings, porch tiles have been broken, while workmen also allowed cement to block drains causing raw sewage to overflow into the street and back-up into several homes.

Householder Graham Wynd, told the Citizen:”The renewal of the pavement in Greyfriars Garden has been a master class in botched work.

“Kerbstones are not level with the pavement and have been laid in a wiggly line. Attempts have been made to hide the defects with amateurish cementing. Gaps between kerbstones vary, some are filled with cement, others not.

“Equally, paving stones are misaligned, imperfectly cut and at a different level from some entrances on to the street. Grout has been crudely smeared across the pavement, filling some cracks, leaving others dry.

“Worse, cement was allowed to drop into the drains, blocking them and causing foul sewage to overflow into the street. Scottish Water took days to dig out the hardened cement - and there’s still more to do.

“The new pavement was meant to enhance this major street. Instead it is a disgrace. The old pavement was better.”

Mr Wynd said that the matter has been raised with council officials, who have promised remedial action.

However, he added that questions still remain and continued:”Exactly what remedial work is to be done or is it to be another botch up? When will it be done? What will happen to those responsible for this expensive bungle, the latest after recent reported examples in Cupar and Freuchie. Finally, who will pay for the fiasco? I fear I know the answer to this already!”

Fife Councillor Dorothea Morrison said she was approached by property owners in Greyfriars Garden about the sewage problem and also the poor appearance of the finished work.

She said:”Several houses were affected by the sewage when the grouting entered the system and blocked a number of drains. It was necessary to excavate two of the traps at considerable cost to Scottish Water and great inconvenience to residents.”

Focusing on what she labelled as the “unacceptable condition” of the paving and kerbstones, she added:”It upsets me greatly to see a new pavement looking worse than it did before. Removing the excess grouting is not a simple matter of hosing down the pavements as the material is high strength based resin and the normal cleaning method will not work. I can only hope all the problems can be resolved in a satisfactory way and that lessons will be learned for the future.”

Responding, Angus Carmichael, service manager with the council’s asset management and projects unit, said:“While other works in St Andrews have been completed to a high standard, it’s disappointing that several parts of the works at Greyfriars Garden weren’t completed satisfactorily before our team left the site. We are working to put things right.

“The most serious disruption was, of course, caused by blockages to the sewers. Unknown to the team on site, in three of 12 locations grout managed to enter the system through temporary sewer covers, which are commonly used to allow work to continue before new frames and covers arrive.

“We’ve surveyed the locations with CCTV and are in regular contact with Scottish Water to resolve the issue. We are also in touch with some individual homeowners to ensure no further properties are affected.”

Mr Carmichael added, however, that some of the issues raised are not faults. For example, he cited the rough hand hewn kerbing being typical of recycled whin used across the country in conservation areas and pointed out the particularly high quality whin on the opposite side of Greyfriars Garden is extremely difficult to source and standard concrete kerbing is obviously not appropriate for the location.

He continued:“I agree with residents that the surfaces of the Caithness paving slabs are spoiled by grouting from the joints. Unfortunately it’s a particularly strong grout that ordinary brick cleaner doesn’t remove, so we’re in discussions with the supplier and will continue our efforts to improve the finished surface. Any excessive gaps between the pavement and buildings will be filled and grout wash on the buildings will be removed.

“We’re in discussions with the sub-contractor who carried out the road resurfacing and action will be taken to stop water pooling on the road.

“We will work through the snagging list as quickly as possible and apologise for any disruption this has caused.”