Rutland County Council pay villager’s £36 compensation claim as cyclists suffer punctures on ride to Stamford
A council has stumped up £36 for puncture repairs and is reviewing how it maintains cycleways following a villager’s 11-month campaign.
David Nicholson, who lives in the parish of Ryhall and Belmesthorpe, first contacted Rutland Council in September last year after two Ukrainian guests staying at his home suffered three punctures, caused by debris left on the path, while cycling into Stamford.
It sparked months of correspondence from Mr Nicholson trying to get his guests’ money back, and to get the council to accept responsibility for maintenance of the paths.
During the saga, he also spent nine months helping the pair find a home of their own through the Government's Homes for Ukraine scheme.
In August, the council’s insurers, Zurich, agreed to pay the sum, but still denied liability.
“I'm surprised that Rutland didn't just settle out of its petty cash,” he said.
“I would not have persevered for my own sake, but our guests do need the money and would not accept charity beyond our help overcoming the Government's Homes for Ukraine visa hurdles and somewhere to live for nine months.”
It happened after hedge cuttings were left strewn across the path alongside Ryhall Road, leaving Mr Nicholson’s guests to walk the bikes into town for repair.
“I offered to cover the cost, but they are the most considerate people I have ever met and would not take a penny,” he said.
“Anxious to avoid a repeat, or to force them to cycle on a busy road, I rang the council and asked it to clear the cycle way.
“To my amazement, it refused, saying that it was the responsibility of the landowner.”
The guests and their friends decided to sweep the path clear themselves, but Mr Nicholson decided to contact the council’s highways department.
“A cycleway is part of a highway and, as with spills on a road, the council has a responsibility to keep it clear,” he added.
Mr Nicholson was sent a form which he completed and returned, only to find it was the wrong form.
Having received the correct form, he returned it with a receipt for the puncture repairs.
“Rather than accept responsibility, and settle the relatively tiny sum, it referred the claim to Zurich, its insurers,” he recalled.
“Firstly, Zurich Insurance denied liability on the basis that the responsibility for clearing up lay with the person who cut the hedge.
“That may be so, but it does not absolve the council from responsibility for ensuring that it is cleared, just as would happen in the event of a lorry spillage.”
After warning he would take the case to the small claims court, Mr Nicholson was asked to send his guests’ original signed authorisation in January.
On August 3 this year, after getting no reply, Mr Nicholson sent a final letter preceding court action, asking for a reply within 14 days.
“At last, on the final day, it agreed to settle the claim,” he said.
A council spokesperson said the authority needed robust insurance processes.
“They may seem excessive, but are important to protect public money from potentially false claims,” they said.
“In this case, the claim involved a third party acting on behalf of the claimant, which can take longer to resolve.
“We have also apologised for delays caused by the council sending out an incorrect form.
“In addition, we are reviewing the way we respond to reports of debris on cycleways.”