COVID TEST CENTRE LANDS IN MILNER ROAD

A Covid testing station has been inappropriately sited in SCC car park Milner Road with no consultation with residents.

MaryWebb, Vice chairman RRA, wrote to Denis Parry the Neighbourhood and Communities Manager to seek an explanation about the choice of site and lack of adequate notification:

Dear Denise

I am writing on behalf of the Riverside Residents Association (RRA) to express some concerns about the testing centre:

  • Residents are fully aware of the need for testing centres and have little objection to County Hall being used.
  • However, we still think that the front of County Hall is  a better site for access and visibility and remain unconvinced that access issues have prevented its use. Several pantechnicon lorries are often on the front of County Hall when filming is in progress as well as large food trucks and other vehicles. There are also two large open courtyards that might have been used and similar large vehicles drive in and out of them.
  • Milner Road is a very quiet residential road and we are concerned about the level of noise that the site will generate both from members of the public and from staff. Noise echoes from the hard surfaces of the buildings and staff arriving seven days a week in time to begin work at 8a.m. could well disturb residents. We have had long standing agreements with County Hall about start times for activity in the carpark and with delivery vehicles. We are also concerned about noise generated from those waiting to be tested.
  • By definition, members of the public will be feeling unwell when they come for tests and there have been no re-assurances that they will not be walking along the pavements in The Bittoms, Oaklea Passage, Milner Road and Woodbines Avenue. For example, if they (with symptoms) are coming from Portsmouth Road then they will be walking up Woodbines Avenue, down Milner Road and into the site.
  • There are a number of residents who shielded due to health conditions and there is concern about spread from members of the public to them.
  • There is no indication of how queueing will be managed – along Milner Road and Woodbines Avenue, in the Bittoms and Woodbines Avenue?
  • We are also concerned about litter. Across Kingston there has been a proliferation of discarded face masks, tissues, coffee cups which are therefore likely to occur in the car park – all potential health hazards for residents.

Lack of consultation with residents where these issues could have been raised and discussed is of serious concern, the expectation is that that there should have been dialogue to allay fears about spread to the residents as the host community.

I look forward to your urgent response as a letter has just arrived telling us that work will begin tomorrow.

Mary Webb
Vice Chair

Riverside Residents Association • 32 Milner Road • KT1 2AU

Good afternoon Mary,

Thank you for your message and my apologies for the delay in coming back to you.

The rear car park of Surrey County Hall was one of three potential sites which were considered by the Department for Health and Social Care at the site survey last Thursday.

The car park in front of County Hall was also considered, and was Kingston Council’s preferred option. Unfortunately it does not have sufficient width to accommodate both staff and removal vehicles plus the testing pods in a safe way.

The testing facilities are all self enclosed units and should generate little noise, some will also have a flexible covering which will also help to reduce and absorb any noise from the site. Surrey County Hall operating hours are from 06:30 -18:30, with the building remaining open until 20:00, so the testing site will keep within the normal opening times. The entire site will be surrounded by fencing to make sure it is secure, and we hope to cover the fencing in artwork to make it look a little bit less clinical.

As it currently stands, each person attending the site will have registered and will be given a prearranged time slot for their test. Therefore, long queues are not anticipated, but to address any possible noise from those waiting, we can place signs reminding attendees to respect local residents and keep quiet.

Anyone attending the site will need to walk as there is no vehicular access. When an appointment is booked via the gov.uk booking platform the recipient of the test will be told that they must arrive by foot and wear a face covering. Anyone that does drive will be directed to the Bittoms car park. Access to the site is intended to be along the footpath of Milner Road opposite one of the fire exits from Surrey County Hall.

There will be 24/7 security to maintain an orderly site. In addition contractors will attend the site to clear waste. This will include cleaning of the toilets, clinical waste as well as general waste.

Residents who have been shielding or who are continuing to shield, should follow government guidance when out in public, wear a face covering, avoid close contact, wash your hands frequently. The Council also has a range of support for shielding residents and this can be accessed here.

I do hope this answers your concerns but please do get in touch if you need any more information and I will try to assist.

Regards

Denise Parry

Neighbourhood and Communities Manager – Kingston Town Healthy & Safe Communities, Communities Directorate

Dear Denise

I am writing on behalf of the Riverside Residents Association.

Thank you for your reply which has commented on some of the issues that I raised.

Your inbox this morning will contain emails from residents who have already been very greatly impacted by the site preparation, particularly in respect of noise and light pollution which is wholly unacceptable in a quiet residential area. I look forward to hearing your response to these concerns and for comprehensive plans to ameliorate the impact on residents. Perhaps you might consult us.

In respect of the other issues raised in my email:

  • Again, the siting of the testing centre at the rear of County Hall over the front or the courtyards is unconvincing. Both are larger and more accessible.
  • County Hall is open from 6.30 – 8p.m., people park their cars and enter so they are not in the car park for any length of time and not in any number and the longstanding arrangements with County Hall about start times for activity in the carpark and with delivery vehicles should have been considered.
  • You have not made it clear how people will access the site. Where will they enter Milner Road as other residential roads lead into it? Which fire exits from County Hall?
  • You say that long queues are not anticipated but with thousands of university students returning and thereby demands for testing dramatically increasing this could be a major problem. The rapid spread of CV19 among university students is becoming apparent. Queueing could take place down The Bittoms (alongside the Court), around the courtyards and then into the site thus keeping infected and potentially infected people away from residents as well as from the large number of other pedestrians who use the pavements of Woodbines Avenue, Milner Road, The Bittoms (residential part) to walk into Kingston and to exercise.
  • You appear to be lacking understanding of the fear that residents feel about the spread of the virus as you have not offered sufficient guarantees about the safe management of the testing centre.

To re-iterate, residents are not opposed to the siting of a centre in County Hall but the lack of consultation, reassurances and planning for it is highly unsatisfactory to say the least. Had there been dialogue with residents (Zoom is used by most people) what is now turning into a major issue could have been prevented.

I look forward to you specifically addressing these issues as a matter of urgency.

Mary Webb

Vice Chair
Riverside Residents Association • 32 Milner Road • KT1 2AU