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Suffolk County Council pays out £300,000 after hundreds of pavement falls

Suffolk Road Bury St Edmunds Eileen Andrews fell on a pavement slab that had been poorly fixed and has smashed up her face and may have broken her nose. Picture by Mark Westley. (3517790)
Suffolk Road Bury St Edmunds Eileen Andrews fell on a pavement slab that had been poorly fixed and has smashed up her face and may have broken her nose. Picture by Mark Westley. (3517790)

A council has paid out more than £300,000 in compensation after hundreds of trips and falls on Suffolk’s crumbling pavements in the last four years.

Suffolk County Council has received 349 compensation claims since April 2014, 32 of which were successful.

Six of the successful claims were made for incidents in this area, with pay outs totalling £40,983. These included £14,081.16 for a fall in Deck Walk, Bury, £8,660 for one off Oakes Road in Bury and £6,582.50 for Lavenham Way, in Stowmarket, all of which occurred in 2014.

While the number of claims made each year is falling, with 101 in 2014 and 75 in 2017, Bury St Edmunds town councillor Tom Murray said he believed the numbers would be higher if people weren’t scared of incurring extra costs during the legal process.

“We get reports weekly of people falling but not all of those people report the problem. People don’t like the idea of suing the council and more often than not it comes to nothing,” he said.

“I know that many of us are old and prone to some falls but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t expect to be safe when out walking in our town. There’s no compensation for people’s pain and suffering and the knock on effect it has on their family members.”

But Eileen Andrews, 67, of Suffolk Road, Bury, who tripped on a pavement slab on the Howard Estate and suffered a broken nose last month, said that despite her efforts to file a claim, she hasn’t yet been sent a form to do so.

“I wrote to them five weeks ago and I’ve still heard nothing back, but I’m still trying to get some money,” she said.

“I broke my nose, ruined my clothes and whenever I go out walking I’m watching where I go now, so I can’t really enjoy it in the same way as before. I think people deserve compensation for that trauma of it all.”

She added that the £300,000, which is funded by central government and Council Tax, was ‘a complete waste of money’ which could have gone towards repairing the pavements.

St Edmundsbury Borough Cllr Max Clarke, who raised concern after Eileen’s fall, said the number of unsuccessful claims was ‘telling’ of the county council’s attitude towards the issue.

“I’d like to know the stories behind those who weren’t paid compensation because I’m sure these people have a legitimate quarrel with the council over their falls as well.What needs to happen to these people before someone pays out to them?” he said.

“I’m not keen on a society where everything is someone else’s fault but when there’s evidence of this going back four years already it’s difficult not to question how long it has been going on for before that and whether a more proactive approach could have solved the problem properly 10 years ago.”

A county council spokesperson said: “The number of claims do not seem to have dropped dramatically, although these numbers always vary across the year. Since the Highways Maintenance Operational Plan was introduced in 2016, we have been working to improve the footways across the county, as well as focussing on the most severe defects, in the busiest locations.

“It is not possible to keep every path in perfect condition, however by targeting our resources, we hope that the new HMOP has contributed to any reduction. We will continue to try and deal with significant trip and slip hazards as quickly as possible.”

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