Lancashire's pothole roads are worse than ever as people tell of broken bones and wrecked cars
It never rains but it pours for highways chiefs in Lancashire.
Despite spending Â£7.7m last year on filling in potholes - and promising an extra Â£5m in next year’s budget - County Hall appears to be fighting a losing battle over the state of our roads.
And as if a normal winter isn’t bad enough, last week’s Arctic freeze, followed by this week’s big thaw, has made the crisis even worse.
It hasn’t helped that a new policy aimed at addressing the sorry situation has had to be withdrawn by LCC bosses after it was condemned as being “full of holes” and potentially dangerous.
Labour’s deputy leader Coun John Fillis, who was in charge of the county’s highways until the Tories won control last May, stormed: “This is a chaotic situation.
“Their pothole policy is in tatters. What the people of Lancashire want is a clear statement of when the potholes will be filled.”
Lib-Dem leader Coun David Whipp also waded in saying tougher new rules on what makes a priority pothole would be “putting people’s lives at risk.”
But while the political parties trade blows over how best to solve the problem of the county’s cratered roads, the public are getting increasingly exasperated at the worsening situation.
Jonathan Birch, from Longridge, said: “Every road round here has potholes. Even the ones that were filled in January are coming back. The council is a joke.”
And cyclist Paul Browne, 61, spent two nights in hospital with a broken shoulder after his bike hit a deep hole in Parbold.
Like many others they want LCC to do more to make the roads safer.
“My helmet saved my life,” said Paul. “If they can’t make the roads safe safe they should close them.”
Lancashire is no different to other parts of the UK during what is widely accepted to be the worst winter for potholes in memory.
Spring normally signals the start of major repair work as the weather warms up and the chances of a successful mend increase. But the arrival of the Beast from the East freeze up last week put things on hold and increased the backlog.
Now the thaw is uncovering thousands of new potholes caused by ice getting into the surface of roads and cracking them up.
Some authorities around the country are reporting double the number of craters appearing because of the bitter start to March.
Lancashire says it fixed 62,823 defects in the county’s roads in 2016/17 at a cost of Â£7.7m. The council has had to put in an extra Â£5m for next year to fight the pothole battle.
But critics say the repairs are not good enough and holes are reappearing within weeks.
Coun Eric Bell who represents Clayton-le-Woods and Whittle-le-Woods on Chorley Council, accused repair gangs of doing only a makeshift job.
“These contractors aren’t doing a permanent job,” he said. “Once the potholes are done they need to last years, not weeks. And if they’re not below a certain depth LCC won’t prioritise them.”
Coun Hasina Khan, who represents Chorley North on the county council, added: “It’s absolutely appalling that major potholes and craters are just patched over, only for them to be revisited again within a few weeks.
“The problem is not being dealt with efficiently - it is a waste of valuable resources.”
The man who took over as cabinet member for highways and transport in May, Coun Keith Iddon, said: “We’re aware that there are a lot of potholes on our roads at the moment, and our repair teams are working hard to repair them.”
“We always try to make a permanent repair to a pothole on the first visit.
“However the quality of repair that can be achieved is affected by the weather and is more difficult in wet and cold conditions.
“The final months of 2017 were particularly wet, and the wet and freezing weather we’ve been having since has created the perfect conditions for potholes to form.
“As soon as the weather improves we will see fewer potholes appearing, as in other years, and we’ll be able to make good quality patch repairs where there are damaged areas, and begin our annual programme of resurfacing, which will make a real difference to the condition of our roads.
“We will spend whatever is necessary to ensure that roads are safe and are working hard to get on top of the winter potholes. We committed an extra Â£5m to repairing potholes in the annual budget agreed last week.”