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Petition to make London Road, Northfleet, safer after death of Sifa Rifat, given to Kent County Council

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A petition to improve safety on a road that has claimed five lives is going before Kent County Council after a man admitted causing an elderly woman’s death.

Sifa Rifat, 88, was walking from her home in the sheltered housing block Cleveland House, to the bus stop opposite on London Road, Northfleet, in May when she was killed by drug-driver Damian Demczuk, who will be sentenced next Thursday.

The tragedy prompted her friend and carer, Pakize Guvenc, to launch a campaign to improve safety and after collecting about 1,500 signatures she appears to have made a breakthrough with the issue now going to KCC.

Sifa Rifat died in London Road, Northfleet
Sifa Rifat died in London Road, Northfleet

The road changes from 30mph to 40mph for a half-mile stretch - immediately after a sharp bend and on the approach to the brow of a hill.

To Pakize, Mrs Rifat was a grandmother figure, having cared for her for 16 years. She said: “My anger that Nan was killed is still there.

But I wanted to do something in her memory. Others living in Cleveland House still see people speeding along the road and are scared to go out. We need to do something for them.”

At a Gravesham Joint Transportation Board meeting last week Northfleet North councillor Peter Scollard (Lab) presented the petition, which with the backing of all the councillors has been sent to KCC for consideration.

Pakize Guvenc has led a petition for a new crossing on London Road, Northfleet, at Cleveland House
Pakize Guvenc has led a petition for a new crossing on London Road, Northfleet, at Cleveland House

Cllr Scollard said: “Every suggestion we put forward was supported; lowering the speed limit, a crossing, better signage and speed cameras.

“It’s in the hands of KCC now, it’s got the recommendation of Gravesham council, so all we can do is hope. A crossing may take a while but I’m hoping the change to the speed limit could be implemented quickly. There’s no reason for it to be 40mph.

“As well as a schools and a nursery, there’s the home for older people, and Madison House, for young adults with learning disabilities and special needs.

“People using this road are vulnerable and it needs to be made safe.”

Cllr Scollard has had success in the past getting a crossing put in outside the nearby Lawn Primary School, and has supported mum-of-one Pakize through this campaign. He worked to collect signatures himself, but said it would never have happened without her drive.

“It’s my job to help, but Pakize has pushed this, she is so passionate about it and that’s what we need more of.”

Damian Demczuk
Damian Demczuk

The stretch has claimed at least five lives in the past 20 years, including 16-year-old Josh Callaghan in 2009. Residents say there are accidents on a weekly basis, with some near misses, and others like teen and pedestrian Ryan Cann who in 2013 had to be taken to hospital after a collision with a car.

There are zebra crossings on London Road – one to the west of Cleveland House outside Lawn primary school and one to the east, outside Rosherville primary but to get from Cleveland House to the bus stop opposite via a crossing means walking around half a mile. Most elderly and disabled residents cannot manage that distance.

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