Pothole ‘crisis’ follows record wet weather

A bad pothole on a lane near Combe Martin. A bad pothole on a lane near Combe Martin.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014
9:53 AM

County council urged to divert more cash to repair ‘deplorable’ road surfaces.

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NORTH Devon’s road network could be facing a pothole crisis as stormy weather conditions continue to batter local roads.

Devon County Council said they repaired 3,500 fewer potholes in 2013 than in 2012, when they were faced with more than 17,500 potholes in North Devon.

But that number could be eclipsed in 2014, with several roads struggling to deal with one of the wettest Januarys on record.

Should the rain continue and temperatures plummet, there are fears that the damage could get even worse in the coming weeks.

"The condition of our road surfaces is deplorable and being made rapidly worse by storms and heavy rainfall."

Cllr Brian Greenslade

And the situation could be exaggerated further by the county council’s decision to extend their response time to reported problems due to the ‘extraordinary number of potholes’.

Brian Greenslade, Devon County Councillor for Barnstaple North, is among a number of Liberal Democrat county councillors calling on the Conservative-run cabinet to amend the budget for the forthcoming financial year to cope with the problem.

Cllr Greenslade said: “The condition of our road surfaces is deplorable and being made rapidly worse by storms and heavy rainfall.

“We all understand that Government cuts to grant support for the county council is the main reason for this.

"They Tarmac over it, and by the next night once a car has driven over it and it’s rained again, the pothole is back. I had one repaired in Muddlebridge in Fremington that lasted 24 hours."

Cllr Frank Biederman

“However the county council could make a stronger response to help the situation.

“We are asking that £4.5 million be taken from the substantial reserves that DCC has to be specifically spent on flood alleviation on the highways of Devon, thereby helping to improve the safety of our roads and also reducing the future cost of maintenance.”

The council said it had repaired 367 pot holes in North Devon since the start of the year, although that figure is expected to spike in the coming weeks.

Highways teams have been re-deployed to cope with the clean-up operation in the wake of recent storms, but many of the repairs made have already been undermined by the weather – with some lasting as little as 24 hours.

"The priority is to try and resolve as many of the safety and emergency issues on the roads which carry the bulk of the traffic in the county and provide key routes into communities."

Cllr Stuart Hughes

Frank Biederman, Devon County Councillor for Fremington Rural, warned that simply filling in potholes was ‘a crazy waste of public money’.

“They Tarmac over it, and by the next night once a car has driven over it and it’s rained again, the pothole is back,” he said.

“I had one repaired in Muddlebridge in Fremington that lasted 24 hours.”

The council said contractors were targeting repairs to potholes and safety defects as well as urgent drainage clearance, but in order to do so, had suspended all planned pre-surface dressing patching until April.

Routine gully clearance, drainage inspections and work by lengthsmen is also being put on hold until the start of the new financial year.

Cabinet member for highway management and flood prevention, Cllr Stuart Hughes, said: “The priority is to try and resolve as many of the safety and emergency issues on the roads which carry the bulk of the traffic in the county and provide key routes into communities.”

But the approach has been described as ‘totally unacceptable’ by South Molton Town Council, which wrote to North Devon MP Nick Harvey in the hope of support from central government.

“All members of this local authority are extremely concerned that DCC are not carrying out urgent repair work to Devon’s road network due to continual financial restraints,” read the letter.

“Devon has the largest road infrastructure of any county in England and due to the recent bad weather many major and minor roads have been damaged and need urgent works to bring them up to an acceptable standard.”

The letter went on to say that these roads ‘suffer in priority’ and ‘never appear to receive regular maintenance.

In the first weeks of January, the council said it received nearly 7,000 reports of flooded roads, potholes and fallen trees.

Devon has the largest road infrastructure of any county and, following major flooding in 2012/13, the county council was left with a repair bill of £18million.

The budget for the current financial year stands at £39 million, with just over £2million committed to ‘legacy repairs’.

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