Obstructed and threatened on Sopwith Way

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It’s a free country?  ”No it’s not!”

Traffic nightmare on Sopwith Way

On 23rd of November 2015 I walked down Sopwith Way at the rear of Chelsea Bridge Wharf. Since the speed humps had been removed from Sopwith Way and the road resurfaced (Summer 2015) , without any attempt to consult with residents and with no assessment of the impact which these  changes might have on the use of the road, Sopwith Way has become a free for all, with non stop traffic mainly consisting of HGVs coming off Queenstown Road and looking for alternative routes towards Battersea Power Station / Vauxhall or for somewhere to run around, and traffic waiting to enter the Vista development site at the corner of Sopwith Way. The road has also become perfect for boy racers’ who dangerously and noisily speed up and down the road in high performance cars. In November 2015 Berkeley Homes were denying that there had been an increase in traffic on the road since the resurfacing which of course is nonsense and has since been disproved by a vehicle count using their own CCTV. In any case, I went down to Sopwith Way to investigate for myself where the traffic was coming from.

Obstructed and threatened by Berkeley Homes contractors

On Sopwith Way, at the entrance to the new Vista development, there was a lot of HGV activity and it was clear that some of the traffic on Sopwith Way was related to this site (even though Berkeley Homes insists that they are not using Sopwith Way for that purpose). I stopped across the road from the entrance to the Vista site to take some photographs of the vehicle activity. Almost immediately, half a dozen or more Berkeley Homes contractors (Elliot Thomas logistics to be precise) came out of the Vista site, surrounded me and insisted that I stop taking photographs. Sopwith Way is a public road and I was not in any way impeding the entrance or exist to the Vista site as I was on the other side of the road. Therefore, they had no legitimate reason to approach me or obstruct me from taking photographs. I said to one of the Elliot Thomas staff, who was pushing his hand in front of my camera ‘this is a free country’ to which he promptly replied ‘ no it isn’t’!’. I refused to be intimidated by this ridiculous behaviour and stood my ground. I mean – who do these people think they are? It seemed to me that they had been watching too many James Bond films and imagined themselves to be guarding the secret base of Dr No. Or perhaps there really is something going on at the Vista site which is secret? I explained to the Elliot Thomas / Berkeley’s staff that this was a public area and that they had no right to obstruct me. They were (unsurprisingly) unable to cite any legal reason to justify obstructing me. Eventually a manager from Berkeley Homes came by and confirmed that this was a public area and that his contractors had no right to interfere with me. However they still did not disperse and stood around me making comments and in one case a threat to ‘leave my lying on the pavement with my camera in pieces’. A second Berkeley’s manager came past and I explained to him that I had been threatened by his contractors and he simply said ‘’well it’s your word against theirs isn’t it’?’’ and departed the scene. I left shortly afterwards myself and reported the incident to Berkeley Homes.

‘Investigation’ by Berkeley Homes

I reported the incident to Berkeley Homes on the day it happened (23.11.15) and, at their suggestion, met with representatives of Berkeley’s (Ruth Perry, Head of Estates and Agata Lipiec, Health and Safety Manager) on 4.12.15 who said that hey would investigate the matter. I explained in detail what had happened and the background to this incident (i.e. the massive increase in traffic on Sopwith Way and the associated noise and pollution). They appeared to listen sympathetically and I expected to hear from them in due course regarding the outcome of their ‘investigation’.  After several chases and a month having passed, I finally received a draft of the statement I had given, which I returned with minor amendments and expected the investigation to be completed within a few weeks.

No lessons learned by Berkeley’s and no answers on Sopwith Way

Despite chasing Ruth Perry at Berkeley Homes several times in early 2016 ,  up to the current time (a few days away from April), I have heard nothing whatsoever about the supposed investigation into the obstruction and threats from the Berkeley’s contractors. Not a sausage! Therefore I must assume that they are so embarrassed by the incident that they hope it will go away by simply ignoring it. So this is how Berkeley Homes ‘investigates’ massively inappropriate and illegal behaviour by its contractors. This is how seriously they take complaints from residents.

Nor have I heard anything from Berkeley’s on how the traffic on Sopwith Way will be restricted. At our meeting in December 2015, we discussed reinstating the humps and the crucial importance of having signage on the junction with Queenstown Road so that drivers realises there is no through route and that they may not use the road for turning. I have heard nothing on either of these points. Furthermore, it is clear that Berkeley have learnt nothing from the incident with their contractors because on  16.2.16  a very similar incident happened. I had been for  a walk in Battersea Park and  taking the small footbridge (under Chelsea Bridge) back to Chelsea Bridge Wharf I walked down Sopwith Way with my camera, with no particular aim in mind other than to possibly take some photographs of my own flat from the ground level. As I stood on Sopwith Way, directly opposite my own property, I was approached by a member of Berkeley’s staff (Victoria Stinson). She asked me what I was doing and I said that I did not have to explain myself to her as this was a public area. I also said that I had an open complaint with Berkeley’s about them obstructing me / hassling me and that she would do well to consult with her manager and educate herself about the law – i.e. that Berkeley’s staff have no right to obstruct, hassle or interfere with residents. Throughout this interaction Victoria Stinson maintained an insouciant smirk as if the whole thing was a joke, even though it must have been very clear to her that I did not wish to interact with her and considered it to to be a serious matter. I asked her several times to leave me alone and to go on her way, which eventually she did. Such inappropriate and unprofessional behaviour makes it clear that Berkeley’s have not instructed their staff about appropriate conduct towards residents in public areas. I considered submitting a formal complaint about this latest incident but it had become quite clear to me that the Berkeley’s complaints process is a token exercise and I would be wasting my time.

And finally..

To anyone from Berkeley’s reading this:  please note that I will walk where I wish on any public or communal area of this development or the surrounding public areas and if any member of your staff obstructs me, questions me or threatens me, then they risk breaking the law. I will at the very least record any such incident and if warranted will take it further legally. If only Berkeley’s put half as much effort into preventing HGVs and boy racers from coming down Sopwith Way as they do to hassling residents then there would be no problem!