When is a pothole not a pothole?

Local authorities are taking wildly differing approaches to deciding whether or not potholes get fixed, meaning many go unrepaired and continue to pose a risk to road users – especially those on two wheels, analysis conducted by the RAC and Channel 4’s Dispatches (on Channel 4 tonight at 8pm) has found.

Three-in-10 of the 206 councils in Great Britain with responsibility for roads (29%, or 59) don’t state any criteria publicly online for repairing potholes while just over a third (35%) list specific depths, and in some cases widths, and 37% (76 councils) say they take a ‘risk-based approach’ to deciding which potholes to fix and how quickly.

This means members of the public who proactively report potholes to local authorities with a view to getting them repaired may often be left frustrated when no action is taken and potholes are simply left to get bigger in order to merit repair.

Among the 35% of councils (71) that say they will only act on potholes if they meet certain criteria, the most common depth stated is 4cm (54 councils) but in the case of six councils – Warwickshire, Torbay, Thurrock, Nottingham, Torfaen and South Lanarkshire – potholes need to be at least 5cm deep to be considered for repair. Thirteen local authorities meanwhile, including Buckinghamshire, Stockport and Devon, state only those at least 30cm wide – the length of an A4 sheet of paper – and 4cm deep will get fixed.

While three-in-10 councils (29%) don’t provide criteria on their website for what constitutes a pothole they’ll fix, even the 37% which take risk-based approaches don’t often provide much information to explain how this works.

The RAC observed there is precious little consistency. For example, it found East Riding Council, which uses a risk-based approach to repairing road defects, very positively explains that it inspects all reported potholes within 24 hours, fixing the most urgent within the same timeframe, and then clearly sets out how it prioritises repairing the rest. In complete contrast, Redcar and Cleveland Council does not appear to have a single page on its website even referencing potholes, nor an ability for people to report them online.

(Pic – RAC)


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