A stone cobbled pavement in the medieval Somerset village of Dunster is causing a public liability headache for the local council, after a spate of trips, falls and injuries have occurred on it.
No one currently owns the pavement, although in most towns the local authority would be held liable for the maintenance of public walkways. This lack of ownership has caused a real problem in Dunster, as the pavement – containing uneven cobbles and holes – is in dire need of improvement but no one will take responsibility for it, for fear of getting sued.
The Dunster Working Group (DWP), a partnership of local council representatives, is currently considering replacing the cobbles with a smooth, even surface for people to walk on safely. This will cost a reported £100,000.
The plans have angered local residents who want to preserve the village’s medieval heritage, but the DWP insists that Dunster is in desperate need of enhancement, mainly for health and safety purposes. Chair of the DWP, Paul Toogood, said:
“We have no choice – this year alone we’ve had to call the ambulance five times for people who have fallen over on the cobbles,”
Another suggested solution is that a nearby business take charge of the cobbled pavement, as they are likely to have professional insurance for public liability issues. This means they will have cover should anyone else fall over and attempt to sue the business.