Pothole epidemic sees councils pay £100,000 to drivers
Hundreds of thousands of pounds have been paid out to motorists due to the poor state of Westcountry roads, despite councils investing millions in tackling a “pothole epidemic”.
The region’s councils have forked out more than £100,000 to drivers in the last two years, according to figures obtained by breakdown specialists Britannia Rescue.
The compensation has come despite millions of pounds worth of investment in bringing the more than 10,000 miles of road in Devon and Cornwall up to scratch – with tens of thousands of pot holes repaired this year alone.
Newly-appointed Transport Minister Robert Goodwill has called on councils to invest the billions of pounds they have received from Government for maintenance and fixing potholes.
Meanwhile, motoring campaign groups have spoken out about the importance of tackling the issue.
Motorcycling enthusiast and Cornwall councillor David Saunby, organiser of the legendary Jennings run, said it was essential to avoid potentially lethal accidents.
“I think the roads have got to be kept up to scratch,” he said. “If you hit a pothole on a motorcycle you could lose your balance and end up in hospital.”
Britannia Rescue managing director Peter Horton said local authorities faced difficult choices over how to prioritise potholes for repair.
“Britain’s pothole epidemic has resulted from years of under-investment in our roads and has been exacerbated by recent harsh winters,” he said.
According to the Freedom of Information request by Bthe breakdown company, there is now one pothole for every mile of road in Britain.
In the Westcountry, Cornwall Council, Devon County Council, Plymouth City Council and Torbay Council spent £90,823.57 in 2011/12 on compensation to drivers due to the poor state of their roads, and another £64,945.14 the following year, receiving more than 3,000 complaints in the process.
Plymouth City Council spent approximately £1.4million over two consecutive financial years on tackling the problem, and estimates there are around 428 pot holes still in existence in the city.
Devon County Council, which, with 8,000 miles of road, has the largest area to cover in the region, received the large bulk of the complaints, at 2,400, over the two year period.
But former cabinet minister and Devon MP David Nicholls, a former campaigner against potholes on his local roads who lives in Hemyock on the Devon-Somerset border, said the situation has improved dramatically in the last couple of years.
“It’s been better in the last few years, they have made a real effort,” he said. “It is absolutely essential if you know of a pothole to tell the council and keep a record.”
Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council cabinet member for highways maintenance, said the council had repaired 62,000 pot holes since the start of the year. He said: “We are working hard to keep roads safe, regularly inspecting our 8,000-mile network, which is the biggest highway network of any authority in the country. Devon County Council investigates claims, but compensation can only be offered where there is evidence that the council may be held at fault in law.”