HAMPSTEAD ROADWORKS: Misery set to last until 2013

HAMPSTEAD faces two years of traffic chaos while a utility firm rips up roads to lay scores of new power cables.

As part of a �1million project, UK Power Networks is completely renewing the area’s underground electricity supply. The upgrade began last April and a number of roads around the Heath, South End Green and the Royal Free Hospital have already been excavated.

But as work began on the next phase of the scheme in Pond Street and Fleet Road this week, it was revealed that the digging will continue until April 2013.

But the prospect of two more years of roadworks is likely to cause upset among residents who just last year put up with months of disruption while Thames Water repaired the Victorian water mains.

There have already been complaints about the energy company’s “shambolic” communications, with many people claiming they were given no warning that Fleet Road and Pond Street were to be closed.

The two roads were shut off for two months last Monday so high voltage cables could be installed to service the Royal Free.

Anna Davies, of South End Green, said she had no idea the closures were going to happen until she was prevented from getting her usual bus to work.

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Speaking on Monday, she said: “I found it really annoying. I wanted to get on the C11 and the bus stop was closed and there were no notices to explain what was going on.”

Renata Giacobazzi, who runs a delicatessen in Fleet Road, added: “Giacobazzi’s and The Pharm have not received any notification of the works nor did we have any idea of Fleet Road being involved.”

William Welbank, a committee member of the South End Green Association, also revealed that there had been a series of blunders on signs informing people of the closures.

“I always understand that works need to be done but informing us about them has been completely shambolic,” he said.

“The first I knew about it was a sign at Whitestone Pond. It said the eastbound lane on Pond Street would be closed but it turned out to be the westbound lane.

“So now they’ve scratched out the part which says east. And the sign at Whitestone Pond is a long way away from Pond Street, so I wonder if they’ve got the ponds mixed up.”

There have also been complaints that changes to the local bus routes have effectively trapped older residents in their homes because they are unable to reach stops for the diverted buses, including the number 46, the 168 and the C11.

UK Power Networks admitted that it only attempted to write to residents about the impending works three days before they began.

But a spokeswoman for the firm promised that any disruption would be kept to a minimum.

She said: “About 70 letters were delivered by our contractor to homes and businesses in the area on Friday, which was when the arrangements were finalised.

“Signs were also erected in eight locations two weeks beforehand, to give people advance warning of the excavation work.

“We have liaised closely with the council to plan how this essential work will be carried out with the minimum of inconvenience to local people and road users.”

The next locations due to be dug up will be Ornan Road and Rosslyn Hill in late April or early May.

Meanwhile, Hampstead will be hit with a separate closure at the beginning of May when Heath Street will be partially shut between Perrins Lane and East Heath Road for five days to lay anti-skid coating on the road surface.