Sick and ‘tyred’ of road pavement neglect

Northamptonshire County Council Highways department is responsible for maintaining roads and pavements across Northamptonshire. Despite complaints and dissatisfaction from residents, cracks and potholes are still a common sight, causing havoc to car tyres, misery to cyclists, a hazard to pedestrians and a death trap to motorcyclists.

One of the major reasons for these issues is that small cracks are not dealt with in a timely fashion because they do not meet the standards to be repaired. These small cracks quickly get worse due to the fact that they fill with water, which expands and contracts with the temperature. This weakens the road structure and the crack enlarges. A way of preventing this would be to fill minor cracks with tar when they first emerge, to prevent water damage.

Everyone can think of pavements churned up by roots of trees that have grown to inappropriate sizes. Again, often only the most serious defects are dealt with in an unsustainable way, whilst smaller defects soon grow. Many a camel would admire the humps on the Glapthorn Road caused by the erupting roots which many of us have tripped over. One section where there were cracks has been dealt with by surfacing over an already large hump, creating an even larger hump. Pedestrians in Oundle are not in need of speed humps.

NCC’s website states that they “strive to provide good quality first time repairs, with fewer repeat site visits and less complaints because public perception is important to us”. This is not unachievable unless they are prepared to redefine their repair standards so that issues get dealt with as they occur and before they become serious. An example of where this has not happened is the North Bridge, which was neglected for many years until it became dangerous. The works that have just taken place on the bridge are the consequence of not dealing with minor matters as they occur.

There also needs to be greater co-ordination between Northamptonshire County Council and utility companies, who frequently dig up the same areas of roads and footpaths to maintain services.

Councillor Tony Robinson, Oundle Mayor said: “As a cyclist I am saddened by the state of our town’s roads. Uneven roads, through potholes and poor repairs are making cycling a danger in the town and frustrating our desire to reduce motor vehicle dependency. We need durable repairs to the roads that give a smooth route where cyclists are not having to weave about avoiding the holes. As for the footpaths, they should not be treated as the Cinderella; a plan should be developed to make and maintain these vital routes in fit state for both pedestrians and wheelchair users.”

A Freedom of Information request revealed that in the past three years Northamptonshire County Council has spent an eyewatering £285,438.38 on compensation for damage to vehicles and personal injury resulting from poor highway maintenance across the county. One single pay-out relating to an incident with a pothole outside Northampton came to a staggering £12,756.99.

Rather than spending a large amount of their budget on compensation, Northamptonshire County Council should be focusing their efforts on preventative maintenance. This would be more sustainable.

I would urge everybody to report any and all road and pavement issues they experience on Northamptonshire County Council’s Street Doctor system on their website.

Robert Foskett
1 December 2020