North Devon potholes ‘filled by complaining’

Joseph Bulmer

Councillor claims the decision to repairing damaged roads is based on how many complaints Devon County Council has received.

THE decision on which potholes to fill and where to make repairs on North Devon’s roads is being based on the number of complaints received, a Barnstaple councillor has claimed.

County Councillor Rodney Cann says money from a �9.3 million government grant awarded to Devon County Council for road maintenance in the wake of damage last winter is being squandered repairing areas that don’t need it, while roads nearby remain heavily damaged.

It follows complaints to Mr Cann by residents in the Lyddicleave at Bickington, who say stretches of their road with relatively minor damage have been fixed while more severely damaged parts have been ignored.

“The criteria appear to be that areas which receive the most complaints are where they do the work, not those in the worst condition and this has thrown up a number of anomalies,” said Mr Cann.

He believes the problem lies with a new highways management restructuring programme that has led to the power to make decisions being taken away from local officers, with everything decided at County Hall in Exeter.

“It seems the system they have now has removed the ability for people on the frontline to commission the work and all decisions to spend on maintenance are taken centrally,” he said.

“It appears that on this occasion there was no local input. It’s a relatively new system and I just don’t think it works.”

Mr Cann had placed the issues on the agenda of the North Devon Highways and Traffic Orders Committee (HATOC,) which was meeting yesterday (Tuesday) morning at the Civic Centre in Barnstaple.

Lyddicleave resident Ron Clayten told the Gazette they had not complained about the holes in their road at first, because they assumed the council would get to them in time – but were stunned when work began nearby: “The stretch they did at the bottom of the road had a couple of potholes in it, but nowhere near as bad as the areas they did not do,” he said.

In response Councillor Stuart Hughes, the council’s cabinet member for highways and transportation, said: “We repair potholes that are found from our routine and other highway inspections and those reported to us by members of the public.

“We prioritise on safety so those which are larger are repaired first.”

He said they aimed to repair potholes that were a safety issue on major roads, well-used pavements or cycle ways by the end of the next working day and those on minor routes within seven working days.

Responding to criticism of the management system, a DCC spokesman said neighbourhood teams had been established to provide closer support for communities, parish councils and county councillors.

“They still have the ability to identify works that meet with policy and safety defects in need of repair,” he added.

“Those requests are jointly programmed with council and SWH Ltd staff and carried out in accordance with our policy, particularly in respect of repairs to potholes and safety defects.”