Sheffield highways chief takes the road to retirement

Pictured is John Charlton,former City Council Works Officer,now with Amey,who is retiring
Pictured is John Charlton,former City Council Works Officer,now with Amey,who is retiring

If there is one man who has shouldered the burden of responsibility for Sheffield’s roads in recent years, it is John Charlton.

He was the senior council officer whose department took the jibes of ‘pothole city’ before launching a massive repairs programme.

Winter inevitably brought complaints that not enough was being done to keep traffic moving. Then there was the momentous challenge of getting Sheffield back on its feet after the floods of 2007.

His job has been to keep local roads safe and clean, usually with limited resources.

John Charlton has been in the middle of it all, a position that ends with his retirement next Wednesday.

“You do feel the pressure,” he says. “It’s a 24 hours a day 365 days a week service. You can’t rest. What with floods, gales and accidents you have got to give yourself to the job. I was extremely proud to work for the city council and to lead Street Force.

“Sometimes you do think that people don’t understand how hard you are trying. But at the end of the day you are a professional engineer and you are trying to do the best job you can.”

After seven years with the private sector, including building bridges on the M62, John joined South Yorkshire County Council and then Sheffield City Council, finally heading Street Force for 12 years.

He spent 37 years in the public sector before switching last year to become development director for Amey, the private contactors implementing the £2bn project that will see all Sheffield roads brought up to standard over five years and maintained at that level for another 20.

Government funds have released a programme that previously you could only dream about, he says, one that extends to repairing footpaths and bridges, installing new street lights and signals and replacing trees.

It has been a largely successful first year, he says. “There have been a few teething problems, but nothing that can’t be overcome.”

Yet big tests are further along the road, when some of the major routes will be disrupted.

But after a year smoothing the transition to Amey, which has taken him past traditional retirement age to 66, John is stepping down.

It will allow him more time at home in Dronfield with his wife, Eileen, and with his two children and four grandchildren, and more time for his athletics, competing as a veteran in the decathlon.

A world masters champion in Japan in 1993, it has been a diversion during his council career that has provided a release “and kept me sane!”

He hopes to continue to do his bit for the community by helping to get Woodbourn Road athletics track up to scratch.

One of his proudest moments was when Sheffield won the European Entente Florale in 2005 with its spectacular floral displays and tidy streets.

Now it’s time for John to go down a different road.