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Monday, June 10, 2024

‘Dangerous potholes given ‘low priority’

“Ridiculous” potholes – said to be dangerous enough kill someone – have been categorised as “low priority” by the council.

Phil Dobson, who regularly drives along Overton Road to visit relatives in Biddulph, said he had been lucky not to have hit one of the seven potholes, which have left room for only one car to pass in some places.

While reporting the damaged street on Staffordshire County Council’s website, he noticed that other people had already done so several times, the first more than six weeks ago.

He said: “If you had a look at it, you wouldn’t believe it, and it’s been like that since before Christmas. There are more potholes there than you know; it’s ridiculous.”

Mr Dobson said he had taken the county council to court in 2016 after a pothole had damaged his car’s suspension, costing him £1,500 to repair.

He said the judge found in favour of the council as Mr Dobson could not identify the specific pothole and Mr Dobson said he wanted to stop the same thing happening to someone else.

He explained: “I put some cones in the holes on Overton Road, then when I came back last night, they’d all been run over and flattened.

“If anyone comes down that road in the dark, on a pushbike or motorbike, with the holes full of water, they could be killed. It’s so dangerous.”

When the “Chronicle” asked Staffordshire County Coun Nigel Yates whether he knew about the Overton Road potholes, he joked that he knew them so well he had given them names.

He said: “Overton Road is a problem area. Like a lot of the connecting roads into Biddulph, it often suffers from water damage, so it gets a lot of frost, freeze and thaw issues; it’s a very difficult road to keep maintained.”

As he spoke, County Coun Yates logged into an online portal for county councillors to see the status of the pothole repairs.

Looking at Overton Road, he said: “There are five items showing which are low-priority; they have been assessed, and they’ve all been classed as non-emergency. They may well have been waiting six weeks. There are some that have been waiting more than 12 months.

“I had a meeting last Wednesday with the highways team to go through all outstanding work and discuss what they can and can’t afford to do; what’s realistic.

“I specifically raised Overton Road, Grange Road, Tower Hill Road and Woodhouse Lane as being particularly bad because I thought they looked dodgy.”

Impact

County Coun Yates said that one of his main pledges during his election campaign last year was to reduce the number of potholes and he felt that he had made a “significant impact”.

He said: “There were 128 potholes when I was doing my campaign and the vast majority of them were resolved. I made sure we got a commitment to resurfacing a lot of the key routes into Biddulph, like the bypass and Meadows Way.

“We had £14.3m allocated to get up to date with potholes, and there are 65 county councillors. That sounds like a lot, but when you divide it between us, that’s only £220,000 per division for potholes.

“I know I got well in excess of that. I’m not sure exactly how much because we aren’t given a breakdown. What people must remember is that it’s purely down to a lack of Government funding.”

County Coun Yates explained that potholes were a “constant bugbear” for every county councillor, and that they all “lobbied hard” to have them filled in their areas.

He said: “The conversation isn’t about the effectiveness of the county councils, it’s about asking when our Government is going to actually finance councils so they can not only get on top of potholes, but start resurfacing the roads properly.”

When asked what he thought about prime minister Rishi Sunak’s pledge to invest £8.3bn into funding for local road maintenance, from money saved by scrapping HS2 north of Birmingham, County Coun Yates responded: “There was never any money for HS2; it doesn’t exist.

“He’s emphasising the con in Conservative. That money is not sitting there in a bank account. He’s just committing to more borrowing.

“When it comes to potholes, you can tinker around the edges and say the contractor isn’t doing a good job, or it’d be better if they put a tapered seam on it, but you’re putting lipstick on a pig. The bottom line is, council funding has been drastically cut and the money just isn’t there.”

County Coun Yates said he believed the Overton Road potholes would be repaired “within the next week or two”.

David Williams, Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport at Staffordshire County Council, said: “We are aware of defects in Overton Road and our inspection team will be visiting the site in the next couple of days to assess their severity then arrange for repairs to be made.

“As a county council, we recognise residents’ frustration with lower-priority potholes in their areas. This is why, last year, we gave our county councillors access to a £2 million pot that enables them to tackle nuisance low priority potholes in their wards.

“Overton Road is one of the locations that has been prioritised for repairs under this fund. These works have, however, been delayed due to the adverse weather we have been experiencing over the last month, which has caused the road to flood.

“I want to please ask residents to be patient as our highways crews continue to work through the winter to prioritise severe defects that cause the greatest danger to road users.”

When asked to clarify whether the Overton Road potholes had been classified as low-priority, a spokesperson said: “Overton Road was one of the roads prioritised for pothole repairs under Councillor Yates’ Member Priority Fund. This fund was set up last year to enable county councillors to tackle low-priority nuisance potholes in their wards.

“However, we know that weather conditions can often exacerbate road defects. So, we have arranged for our inspection team to visit Overton Road in the next couple of days to reassess the potholes and see if they have worsened and – if so – prioritise repairs accordingly.

“Just to be clear, the potholes on Overton Road have not yet been categorised in their current condition.”

(Photo: Nigel Yates).

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