£1 million price tag for pothole repairs in West Suffolk in last two years

Pot Holes - St Olaves Road ANL-150330-133256009
Pot Holes - St Olaves Road ANL-150330-133256009

Council bosses have poured more than £1 million into fixing nearly 11,000 potholes in West Suffolk in the last two years, new figures have revealed.

Suffolk County Council forked out £513,896 in 2014/15 (upto this March) to repair 4,814 potholes in St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath as well as £529,424 to mend 5,925 in 2013/14.

The figures – released after a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by the Bury Free Press – follow concerns by residents in recent weeks that Bury St Edmunds is starting to look ‘shabby’ because of poorly maintained and neglected roads and paths.

One area, Holderness Road, is in such bad condition it was likened to ‘war torn Beirut’. The county council says it is looking to address these issues in its programme of works.

The FOI request also lays bare the scale of compensation paid to cover damage to vehicles caused by potholes in West Suffolk in the last four years.

In 2014/15, compensation pay outs cost the authority £28,249 after two large claims totalling £21,380 from 2008 and 2009 and several other older claims were settled.

The council paid £588 in compensation in 2013/14, £2,131 in 2012/13 and £5,349 in 2011/12.

However, the number of potholes in West Suffolk reported to the county council is lower than the amount filled in. There were an estimated 3,067 reported in 2014/15 upto March and 3,747 in 2013/14.

Guy Smith, assistant area (West Sufolk) highways manager for the county council, said this was due to staff discovering potholes and road damage during their routine inspections. An A class road such as the A143 between Bury and Haverhill would be inspected on a monthly basis with smaller roads looked at every six months.

Asked if he was surprised by the figures about the amount of potholes reported and filled in, Mr Smith said: “West Suffolk is the whole of Forest Heath and St Edmundsbury so there’s quite a large propertion of the county so no – those figures have been relatively running at a constant level in the last five or six years.”

He said the works to repair pot holes in 2014/15 benefited from Government funding including £2.9 million from the Severe Weather Fund with the Western area receiving £550,000 and £2.2 million from the Pothole Challenge Fund, of which West Suffolk had £600,000.

Paul Watters, head of roads policy for the AA, said it was ‘good news’ the money was being used to address the issue of pot holes. He said: “It’s welcome they spent the money – we would have preferred the roads to be in a better condition so the pot holes don’t occur in the first place. They only occur because of a weakness in the road.”

Mr Watters noted the cost of fixing a pot hole is £60 and that the Asphalt Industry Alliance’s recent ALARM Survey found compensation claims had doubled to £20.2 million.

He added: “All of that is counter-productive because the money could have been better spent fixing the roads. We’ve luckily had a reasonably good winter. We hope we’re coming out of it with less damage than last year but potholes look like they’re here to stay for the foreseeable future.”