CROYDON AND SOUTHWARK PARKING STAFF WIN NATIONAL AWARDS / TOWN CENTRE STORE FINED MORE THAN £1 MILLION OVER RODENT INFESTATION

Croydon council parking staff at the awards event (Youssef El-Khouri is third from right)

Croydon: Council staff behind a pilot scheme to create temporary pedestrian zones outside schools have received two national industry awards.

In September three primaries – Heavers Farm and St Chad’s in Selhurst and Woodcote in Coulsdon – signed up to Croydon council’s pilot scheme to turn their schools’ residential approach roads into pedestrian zones during the school run.  This was because of the schools’ concerns about parking and pedestrian safety during the morning and afternoon drop-off and collection times.

At the British Parking Awards in London on Friday, council staff involved in the school parking zones trial won two awards. The first went to the council’s overall parking team for the Parking in the Community Award, which “recognises people working within the parking sector who have engaged with and supported their local communities”. The community award submission cited feedback from the schools, which reported less school-run traffic, less inconsiderate parking and better access for pupils walking to school.
 
The Frontline Award, which is given to “recognise excellent customer service, communication skills and community engagement”, went to Croydon council employee Youssef El-Khouri, who combined his day jobs as a civil enforcement officer in the parking team with being a lollipop person at a school crossing patrol near Woodcote primary, one of the schools in the six-month trial.

His award submission cited his popularity with pupils, their parents and local residents, and he also gave feedback to a local bus company which then made sure there were two school buses serving Woodcote Primary in the mornings and afternoons.

The roads in the scheme – two in Selhurst and three in Coulsdon – were not physically closed to traffic; instead, the council used temporary automatic number plate recognition cameras to scan if vehicles passing through the pedestrian zones had permission, with signs marking the zones’ limits.

Cllr Stuart King, Croydon’s cabinet member for transport and environment, said: “These awards are a real accolade for our parking team, who have done so well to have been singled out for praise among their peers nationwide.

“I’m especially pleased for Youssef, who has received a lot of praise from local people for his role in this school parking trial.”

The school-run parking zone consultation period concluded last week, and the council’s traffic management advisory committee will decide later this year whether to make the schemes permanent.
(Source: Croydon council press release)

SOUTHWARK WIN AWARD FOR INTELLIGENT PARKING

Southwark:  Council are delighted to have won the Intelligent Parking Award at the British Parking Awards at the Lancaster Gate Hotel on 9 March.

Southwark was competing against some inspiring projects from Hackney, Somerset, Westminster and Cheshire, for an award that recognises smarter approaches to planning and management of parking, along with solutions born of lateral thinking.

A wide ranging strategy developed by Southwark  council showed a deep understanding of the need for road space to be used for more than just parking, by looking at how it could be utilised for walking, cycling and other services.

The council are committed to improving air quality, it wants to tackle obesity and reduce all types of traffic collisions. This means a rethink about how the borough’s kerbsides are used.

The strategy will inform the council’s long-term approach to creating attractive, safe and multi-use streets. It will support healthier neighbourhoods and encourages healthier lifestyles by encouraging more walking and cycling and improving air quality, by reducing congestion on the network.

Cllr Ian Wingfield, Southwark’s cabinet member for environment and the public realm, said “We believe we are the first local authority in Europe to have produced an evidence-based, holistic approach to look at this often-overlooked and neglected but valuable public space. “We are delighted that our strategy has garnered the recognition of this prestigious award.”  (Source: Southwark council press release)

TOWN CENTRE STORE FINED MORE THAN £1 MILLION OVER RODENT INFESTATION

A town-centre branch of a national chain store has been hit with financial penalties amounting to almost £1.2m for food hygiene and health and safety offences after a Croydon crown court judge said: “The smell of rodents’ urine was discernible upon immediate approach to the food section of the store.”

At an earlier hearing the company had admitted five food safety offences and two breaches of health and safety at work regulations.

On Friday (9 March), Her Honour Judge Smaller fined the company £660,000 for the food safety offences, and £500,000 for one of the health and safety at work offences – with no separate penalty for the second. She also awarded costs of £30,409.60 and a victim surcharge of £120. The total figure amounted to £1,190,529.60.

Charges were brought against the company after Croydon council food safety officers received a complaint from a member of the public who reported that she had seen evidence of a rodent infestation on the shopfloor of the store.

On visiting the store, in February 2016, the officers discovered an out-of-control infestation. The shop was dirty and littered with mouse droppings; food on display was gnawed and rodent urine and faeces were found over packaging and products. Some products’ gnawed packaging had been “repaired” with adhesive tape and returned to the shop shelves for sale.

Officers consulted with the store management who agreed to immediately cease the sale of food.

The basement and storage areas were also found to be contaminated with mouse droppings, while some areas were in darkness with very poor visibility. The goods lift was found to be out of commission, leaving staff members having to manually carry goods up to the shopfloor. No risk assessment had been carried out for this activity.

Additionally, there was no hot water, inadequate heating and poor housekeeping, which resulted in stock being left in a haphazard and dangerous manner.

The court heard that in May 2015 the company had been acquired by another company on behalf of funds controlled by a global private equity investment firm with assets worth more than $80 billion.

Court-requested details of the global firm were “respectfully declined” by the defendant’s counsel on the basis that, in his representation, the three companies were not linked organisations. Judge Smaller said: “In the absence of being given sufficient reliable information, I am entitled to draw reasonable inferences that the (town centre) company can pay any fine.”

Cllr Hamida Ali, Croydon’s cabinet member for communities, safety and justice, said: “I am pleased to see that by imposing such a substantial level of fines and costs, the courts take seriously the matter of food retailers’ responsibility to ensure they adhere to legal requirements designed to protect the health and safety of their customers and staff.

“The degree to which this company failed to uphold cleanliness and safety standards in its premier town-centre store beggars belief, and the financial penalty imposed is – to most people’s minds, I’m sure – entirely justified.” (Source: Croydon council press release)

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