Liability for hazardous cavity left by uprooted tree in the middle of a Council-maintained car park (MK41 0PW)

Response to this request is long overdue. By law, under all circumstances, Bedford Borough Council should have responded by now (details). You can complain by requesting an internal review.

Dear Bedford Borough Council,

BACKGROUND: A hidden cavity was left by an uprooted tree in the middle of the car park as a result of a vehicle collision. The tree pit was situated between two rows of parking bays & bordered by a diamond of kerbstones. The hazard was not clearly visible when driving forward into the space, or leaving/returning to a car parked there (especially if the adjacent spaces were occupied) and then continuing forward out of the space. This caused at least two identical accidents within the space of a month (07 Jul 2018 and 06 Aug 2018)

INFORMATION REQUESTED:

1. Did the Council classify the defect, with the cones "removed by persons unknown", as a hazard to pedestrians, rather than to vehicles?
2. If so, why did the fortnightly inspection process record no trip (or any other) hazards?
3. Was vehicle safety a factor in the fitness for purpose of these kerbstones (which left at least two cars suspended by their chassis over the cavity)
4. The Council’s own Chartered Surveyor, Mike Duncan MSc MRICS, stated that this tree feature should not have been in the middle of the car park. How has his view been taken into account?

Yours faithfully,
Greg Peachey

Freedom of Information, Bedford Borough Council

Thank you for your e-mail requesting information under the Freedom of
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3. mailto:[Bedford Borough Council request email]

Rupee Baga, Bedford Borough Council

Bedford BC - OFFICIAL-Unsecure

 

Dear Mr Peachey

 

Request pursuant to Environmental Information Regulations Act 2004 –
Request No. 13454

 

Thank you for your request, this has been considered under the
Environmental Information Regulations 2004.

 

Please see information you requested below:

 

BACKGROUND: A hidden cavity was left by an uprooted tree in the middle of
the car park as a result of a vehicle collision. The tree pit was situated
between two rows of parking bays & bordered by a diamond of kerbstones.
The hazard was not clearly visible when driving forward into the space, or
leaving/returning to a car parked there (especially if the adjacent spaces
were occupied) and then continuing forward out of the space. This caused
at least two identical accidents within the space of a month (07 Jul 2018
and 06 Aug 2018)

                    

INFORMATION REQUESTED:

 

1.                    Did the Council classify the defect, with the cones
"removed by persons unknown", as a hazard to pedestrians, rather than to
vehicles? Yes, the cones were put there because the council initially
recognised it was a potential hazard to pedestrians rather than vehicles.

 

2.                    If so, why did the fortnightly inspection process
record no trip (or any other) hazards? The inspection records recorded
that the tree was badly damaged and it needed to be removed. ( a
replacement tree was ordered however the planting season is late
autumn/early winter).  At that time there sufficient soil so we were
confident there was no potential hazard. At a later date we noticed a
portion of the soil had been removed, leaving a discernible dip – it was
then that we placed a cone in the space until a replacement tree was
planted. The cone was repeatedly removed and placed back in position.

 

 

3.                    Was vehicle safety a factor in the fitness for
purpose of these kerbstones (which left at least two cars suspended by
their chassis over the cavity) Bedford Council was not made aware of any
such incident. The

first report was when Mr Peachey contacted us via his Insurance company.
The purpose of the kerbstones are to protect the trees from being hit by
vehicles.

 

        4.            The Council’s own Chartered Surveyor, Mike Duncan
MSc  MRICS, stated that this tree feature should not have been in the
middle of the car park. How has his view been taken into account?

                 This was Mike Duncan’s personal opinion of the matter and
as per his email footer of the 19^th July 2018  ‘ Any opinions expressed
in this mail do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Bedford Borough

                 Council’.  

 

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If you have any queries about this letter, please contact me.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Rupee Baga - Business Management Support Officer supporting

Andy Watkins - Assistant Chief Executive (Enabling Services)

Bedford Borough Council

Room 336

Borough Hall

Cauldwell Street

Bedford MK42 9AP

Direct Dial (01234 718241 (Ext 47241)

Email: [email address]

Website: www.bedford.gov.uk

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

From: Greg Peachey [[4]mailto:[FOI #540226 email]]

Sent: 19 December 2018 12:29

To: Freedom of Information

Subject: Freedom of Information request - Liability for hazardous cavity
left by uprooted tree in the middle of a Council-maintained car park (MK41
0PW)

 

Dear Bedford Borough Council,

 

BACKGROUND: A hidden cavity was left by an uprooted tree in the middle of
the car park as a result of a vehicle collision. The tree pit was situated
between two rows of parking bays & bordered by a diamond of kerbstones.
The hazard was not clearly visible when driving forward into the space, or
leaving/returning to a car parked there (especially if the adjacent spaces
were occupied) and then continuing forward out of the space. This caused
at least two identical accidents within the space of a month (07 Jul 2018
and 06 Aug 2018)

 

INFORMATION REQUESTED:

 

1.            Did the Council classify the defect, with the cones "removed
by persons unknown", as a hazard to pedestrians, rather than to vehicles?

2.            If so, why did the fortnightly inspection process record no
trip (or any other) hazards?

3.            Was vehicle safety a factor in the fitness for purpose of
these kerbstones (which left at least two cars suspended by their chassis
over the cavity)

4.            The Council’s own Chartered Surveyor, Mike Duncan MSc 
MRICS, stated that this tree feature should not have been in the middle of
the car park. How has his view been taken into account?

 

Yours faithfully,

Greg Peachey

 

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show quoted sections

Dear Rupee Baga,

Thank you for your reply.

At this stage, please could I just deal with your response to Point 1:

You stated that, once there was a discernible dip in the soil, this was recognised as a “hazard to pedestrians”.

However, every report from the fortnightly inspection process dated 03/06/2018, 17/06/2018, 01/07/2018 and 15/07/2018, which Zurich Insurance forwarded me in response to my claim, as a defence against Council negligence, recorded “Green” – i.e. “No” to the question “Any trip hazards…?”

This is inconsistent with your reply.

Doesn’t this mean that the inspection process was ineffective?

Yours sincerely,

Greg Peachey

Mike Duncan, Bedford Borough Council

Bedford BC - OFFICIAL-Unsecure

Mr Peachey,

When the council carried out the inspections dated 03/06/2018, 17/06/2018, 01/07/2018 and 15/07/2018, a traffic cone had already been in the placed in the ground where the damaged tree had been removed. As it transpired the cone had been removed by persons unknown at the time when you drove your car over the kerb, this explains why no hazard was identified on the inspection sheets. As my previous emails stated the cone has a history of being removed and the estates department replaces it as soon as it is discovered it has been removed. I trust this serves to explain your query.

Regards,

Mike Duncan MSc MRICS
RICS Registered Valuer

Principal Estates Surveyor
Economic Growth and Property
Bedford Borough Council
Room 305 Borough Hall
Cauldwell Street
Bedford
MK42 9AP
 
Ext: 44837    Direct Dial: (01234) 276837
website: www.bedford.gov.uk

“Bedford Borough Council – Working with our partners to make the Borough a better place to live, work and visit. For up-to-date information on the Council follow us on Twitter: @bedfordtweets”

All email traffic may be subject to recording and/or monitoring in accordance with relevant legislation. This email and any attached file are the property of Bedford Borough Council. Any opinions expressed in this mail do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Bedford Borough Council.
Bedford Borough Council is continuously working towards the requirements of the Public Sector Network and Data Protection legislation.  Data Subjects may exercise their information rights by contacting [email address]

show quoted sections

Dear Mike Duncan,

Thank you for your response.

I’m very sorry, but that does not explain my query.

My incident occurred on 07/07/2018. After reporting the defect, I began to visit the car park every day to see when the Council would take some action, and at no time did I (nor did any of the shop staff I asked) see any warning cones there. However, the inspection report on 15/07/2018 still failed identify this trip “hazard to pedestrians”.

In any case, by that date the Council was certainly well aware that any cone placed there would be systematically removed by ‘persons unknown’. Moreover, after making a conscious decision to discontinue replacing the warning cones, the inspection process should certainly NOT have simply reported the trip hazard status as “G” (Green).

My question therefore remains… Which of the following is true?:

a) The inspection reports are correct, and contrary to the email dated 09/11/2018 from Zurich Insurance, the Council did not really consider the defect as a hazard to pedestrians (rather than cars), OR…
b) The inspection reports are incorrect and the inspection process cited as the Council’s defence is actually ineffective.

This matter is significant, because it calls into question the integrity of the Council and/or its insurer, Zurich Insurance. Those reports were cited as the main defence against my legitimate claim. Regrettably, it appears that Zurich Insurance has induced the Council to contradict itself in order to evade paying justified and modest compensation to a community member.

Yours sincerely,

Greg Peachey

Mike Duncan, Bedford Borough Council

Bedford BC - OFFICIAL-Unsecure

Dear Mr Peachey,

Just to inform you your email has been sent to council's insurance so they will respond.

Regards,

Mike Duncan MSc MRICS
RICS Registered Valuer

Team Leader Commercial Estates
Economic Growth and Property
Bedford Borough Council
Room 305 Borough Hall
Cauldwell Street
Bedford
MK42 9AP
 
Ext: 44837    Direct Dial: (01234) 276837
[mobile number]
website: www.bedford.gov.uk

“Bedford Borough Council – Working with our partners to make the Borough a better place to live, work and visit. For up-to-date information on the Council follow us on Twitter: @bedfordtweets”

All email traffic may be subject to recording and/or monitoring in accordance with relevant legislation. This email and any attached file are the property of Bedford Borough Council. Any opinions expressed in this mail do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Bedford Borough Council.
Bedford Borough Council is continuously working towards the requirements of the Public Sector Network and Data Protection legislation.  Data Subjects may exercise their information rights by contacting [email address]

show quoted sections

Dear Mike Duncan,

Thank you very much for keeping me informed.

I look forward to the response from Zurich Insurance.

Yours sincerely,

Greg Peachey

Dear Mike Duncan,

I write to inform you that I have just received notification from the Freedom of Information System that the Council's insurance has not responded on your behalf within the maximum delay limit allowed by law.

Yours sincerely,

Greg Peachey

Mike Duncan, Bedford Borough Council

Bedford BC - OFFICIAL-Unsecure

Hello Mr. Peachey

Sorry to hear that, I have passed your email on the council's insurance department.

Regards,

Mike Duncan MSc MRICS
RICS Registered Valuer

Team Leader Commercial Estates
Economic Growth and Property
Bedford Borough Council
Room 305 Borough Hall
Cauldwell Street
Bedford
MK42 9AP
 
Ext: 44837    Direct Dial: (01234) 276837
[mobile number]
website: www.bedford.gov.uk

“Bedford Borough Council – Working with our partners to make the Borough a better place to live, work and visit. For up-to-date information on the Council follow us on Twitter: @bedfordtweets”

All email traffic may be subject to recording and/or monitoring in accordance with relevant legislation. This email and any attached file are the property of Bedford Borough Council. Any opinions expressed in this mail do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Bedford Borough Council.
Bedford Borough Council is continuously working towards the requirements of the Public Sector Network and Data Protection legislation.  Data Subjects may exercise their information rights by contacting [email address]

show quoted sections

Dear Mike Duncan,

Thank you. I look forward to receiving their response.

Yours sincerely,

Greg Peachey

Ann Bullock, Bedford Borough Council

Bedford BC - OFFICIAL-Unsecure

 

Dear Mr Peachey

 

I have chased our insurance company, Zurich Municipal, on your response to
your email of 13/02/2019 as they are dealing with your claim on behalf of
the Council.

 

Our Claims Handler will be back in the office tomorrow, if you wish to
give Zurich a call regarding your email then please contact tel; 0800 783
0692 otherwise they should be contacting you shortly.

 

Regards

 

Ann

 

Ms Ann Bullock

Insurance & Risk Officer

Insurance & Risk Section

Bedford Borough Council

Borough Hall (Room 223 Second Floor)

Cauldwell Street

Bedford

MK42 9AP

Tel: 01234 228704 Ext: 42704

Website ([1]www.bedford.gov.uk)

 

Bedford Borough Council - Working with our partners to make the borough a
better place to live, work and visit.  For up-to-date information on the
Council follow us on

Twitter: @bedfordtweets

Facebook: [2]https://www.facebook.com/bedfordboroughc...

 

 

 

 

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Dear Ann,

Thank you for keeping me posted. I look forward to their communication.

Yours sincerely,

Greg (Peachey)

Ann Bullock, Bedford Borough Council

Bedford BC - OFFICIAL-Unsecure

 

Dear Mr Peachey

 

I am writing to inform you that I have been in contact with our insurance
company, Zurich Municipal, regarding your previous request of challenging
their liability decision, this has been reviewed and the decision has been
upheld and so have no offers to make to yourself.

 

We have also reviewed your file with our Estates section and they are also
in agreement with Zurich, we consider that the best option available to
yourself is to seek independent legal advice on the matter.

 

Regards

 

Ann

 

Ms Ann Bullock

Insurance & Risk Officer

Insurance & Risk Section

Bedford Borough Council

Borough Hall (Room 223 Second Floor)

Cauldwell Street

Bedford

MK42 9AP

Tel: 01234 228704 Ext: 42704

Website ([1]www.bedford.gov.uk)

 

Bedford Borough Council - Working with our partners to make the borough a
better place to live, work and visit.  For up-to-date information on the
Council follow us on

Twitter: @bedfordtweets

Facebook: [2]https://www.facebook.com/bedfordboroughc...

 

 

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the property of Bedford Borough Council. Any opinions expressed in this
mail do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Bedford Borough Council.

Bedford Borough Council is continuously working towards the requirements
of the Public Sector Network and Data Protection legislation.  Data
Subjects may exercise their information rights by contacting
[email address].

 

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Dear Ann,

Thank you for forwarding me that response from Zurich Municipal and your Estates section.
I do understand your Insurer’s and the Council’s joint motivation to evade a compensation payment during this challenging financial climate. However, this is a Freedom of Information Request, and my objective at this stage is simply to obtain the truth.

We have now got to the nub of my Request, and it is becoming inescapably evident that Zurich denied my application for compensation on grounds that are not self-consistent. Consequently there is an outright refusal to answer this simple yes/no question.

To “fail to respond adequately to a request for information” constitutes “breaching the Freedom of Information Act”. To deliberately allow false grounds to be used to “deprive a victim of a legal right” is a more serious matter.

Please could you answer the question in my communication dated 13 February 2019, or I shall register that “My request has been refused” and proceed from there.

Yours sincerely,

Greg Peachey

Ann Bullock, Bedford Borough Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Peachey

I have checked with our FOI section and they have said that they responded to your request ref EIR 13454 when Mr Duncan replied via email, please see the attached, otherwise we do not have anything else outstanding for you. Please can you reiterate your questions if they are different from the attached details and I will forward your request on to the FOI section to deal with.

Regards

Ann

Ms Ann Bullock
Insurance & Risk Officer
Insurance & Risk Section
Bedford Borough Council
Borough Hall (Room 223 Second Floor)
Cauldwell Street
Bedford
MK42 9AP
Tel: 01234 228704 Ext: 42704
Website (www.bedford.gov.uk)

Bedford Borough Council - Working with our partners to make the borough a better place to live, work and visit.  For up-to-date information on the Council follow us on
Twitter: @bedfordtweets
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bedfordboroughc...

show quoted sections

Dear Ann,

Thank you for forwarding me a copy of the response, which, I previously explained, did not answer my query.

As you suggest, I will make a new request asking for more specific supporting information and then continue to request a clear response to this question.

Yours sincerely,

Greg Peachey

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