At 4.10 AM one dark February morning in 2016, Kerry Pateman fell on lethal and deathly uneven paving slabs at the bottom of the steps that link the Milestone Road to the Bedford Road in the Oughton ward in Hitchin.
Hospital X-Rays discovered that Kerry had broken her Achilles heel and shunted the bone that connected her foot to her ankle out. Following an operation that night to fix her ankle and foot, a plate and seven screws later Kerry was off work for 5 and a half months.
This appalling and unnecessary accident was high profile during the Oughton By-Election later that year in November 2016. A historical anomaly had been unresolved for years due to the fact that the land in the Alleyway was never registered.
As the Independent Candidate in this By-Election I was contacted by Oughton Residents to get involved. I engaged with Officers from both NHDC and Herts County Council over a period of several weeks when eventually ownership of the alleyway was finally established. Previous defective lighting within the alleyway was repaired and HCC were to repair the Alleyway where required going forward.
Unfortunately, almost a year later, in September 2017, I received a phone call from Oughton residents to be informed that despite assurances from the elected representatives of the Oughton ward, following the By-Election in 2016, that in fact no further progress on the Alleyway had taken place.
Liz Whitelock and myself mounted a new campaign over the next six weeks through Facebook. During this time funding was successfully authorised within the Highways Budget for the Alleyway to be repaired in full. Our campaign was given huge backing from BBC Three Counties Radio,The Comet Newspaper and in particular by The Comet Journalist JP Asher.
Finally on 27th October 2017 we were informed by Oughton residents that the Alleyway had been fully tarmacked from top to bottom. Ringway, the contractors for HCC, had clearly worked incredibly hard in constructing the new Alleyway during the half term school holidays that week and their work is to be highly commended.
Despite local Councillors being fully aware of the circumstances relating to Kerry's accident the matter of compensation was to have been investigated. However, this never materialised and as a consequence compensation was never received.
Once a notoriously unsafe Alleyway became a safe Alleyway for both residents and pedestrians. This is also how I came to be known as Slab Lady.
This article has been written with the kind permission and in full consultation with Kerry Pateman.