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Pothole teams treble as Devon battles to repair storm damage

By Herald Express  |  Posted: February 27, 2014

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DEVON County Council has almost tripled its number of pothole repair teams in response to the storm damage to roads across the county.

During the winter storm period since December 23, the council has recorded more than 1,300 reports of fallen trees and branches on Devon's roads, more than 150 embankment slips, and more than 4,000 flooding incidents across the county.

Around 11,500 potholes have also been reported by the public or found by highway inspectors so far in 2014. In response, the number of teams dealing with pothole safety defect repairs has increased from 13 to 34, with an extra 52 staff tackling the problem. The approximate additional cost of the work is around £65,000 a week.

The clear-up of the storm damage is estimated to cost around £3million to the end of the financial year, but the council is yet to finalise a figure for the damage caused by the storms as the road network and structures are still being assessed.

Cllr Stuart Hughes, the council's cabinet member for highway management and flood prevention, said: "These storms have illustrated how fragile our road network is. Coastal areas have taken the biggest hit, but we're seeing severe damage right across our network, and the cyclic nature of the storms has made the clear-up much more difficult than the storms in 2012/13.

"The government has said it will foot the bill for the storm damage, but despite putting extra resource into repairs there has been a massive increase in pothole numbers, from about 2,000 a month in a normal winter to about 7,400 in January alone.

"The recent changes to the rules have been helpful in reducing the trigger point for funding from about £1.7million to about £1million before financial help is available, and the qualifying period has been extended until the end of May.

"With clear-up costs escalating to about £3million, Devon's liability for this is capped at £1 million. However, the problem we're likely to find is where roads have been washed away and need reinstating or potentially moving further inland, the capital required for permanent repairs won't be covered by the scheme, even in its revised form.

"I have lobbied Government for extra funding and we are also working with Devon's MPs to explain the impact of insufficient funding on our roads. The council has put a case to the Department for Transport for £15million of extra capital funding in 2014/15."

Met Office data has shown in December, rainfall was 143 per cent of the average, and in January it was 183 per cent of the average.

There have also been numerous small scale landslips. The Teign Valley Road (B3193) was closed due to a landslip near Trusham Quarry. One lane was later reopened with temporary traffic lights put in place, with a wall being constructed to prevent further slippage.

Devon County Council is still left with the legacy of the remaining repairs from the £18 million of damage caused by the storms of 2012/13, which will have to be funded from future capital allocations.

The maintenance backlog to bring Devon's roads up to scratch currently stands at £770million.

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