Lancashire County Council blasted over suggestions of short-term ‘blobbing’ pothole repair method

Posted on - 25th May, 2024 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - Chorley News, Fylde News, Politics, Preston News, Ribble Valley News, Roads, South Ribble News, Transport, Wyre News
County Hall in Preston. Pic: Blog Preston
County Hall in Preston. Pic: Blog Preston

Lancashire County Council has been blasted over a suggestion it has reverted to the practice of “blobbing” potholes with tar, rather than carrying out more substantial repairs.

The authority has long made a virtue of the processes it uses to ensure more durable fixes so that the same defects do not keep reappearing on the county’s roads.

In response to the furore – emanating from a briefing given to Preston city councillors – highways bosses have denied that County Hall’s policy has changed, but stress that pothole-filling techniques will vary depending on the location and nature of each repair.

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The main method designed to ensure longer-lasting repairs involves cutting out the area around a pothole and sealing the edges of the newly filled-in rectilinear patch.

However, the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) has been told the county council confessed to returning, in some cases, to the more rudimentary option of pouring repair material directly into potholes – in whatever irregular shape they appear – and simply flattening it down.

The risk traditionally associated with that process is that water can find its way in around the edges of the hole and quickly undo the repair job – leaving motorists frustrated and road workers making repeated visits to the same problem spots.

The county council insists all of its pothole-fixing techniques – some of which can be made waterproof even without cutting out a surrounding section of road – provide “quality, long-lasting repair[s]”.

However, Preston City Council’s Liberal Democrat opposition group leader John Potter says he was advised during this week’s briefing that the county authority had reverted to using blobs of bitumen over the past 18 months because it was a speedier option.

He says the admission came after he raised concerns at the meeting about the quality of repairs being seen on Lancashire’s road network.

“We’ve been asking questions about how the roads have got this bad – and now we know.  They changed their processes 18 months ago and it’s been a disaster.

“They are paying people to come out several times to do a pothole – or a pothole that opens up next to a [repaired] one in a month’s time – instead of doing a proper sealing-off job.   It’s a false economy.

“So when cabinet members say, ‘We’ve repaired X amount of potholes,’ that could be the same pothole three times, [because] they’ve done it in a cheap and nasty way,” added Cllr Potter, who is also a county councillor for the Preston West division.

The blobbing technique is understood to be used for so-called ‘reactive’ repairs on those potholes that exceed the 40mm depth at which the county council’s own policy demands they be filled in.

The authority is still addressing multiple potholes over broader areas – using the cut-and-seal technique – as part of the work carried out under its Local Deterioration Fund (LDF).  That cash pot – which was boosted with an extra £1.5m from County Hall’s coffers just this month – is designed precisely to avoid repeat visits to deal with dud repairs.

The county council has also this month created a £2.5m “responsive patching” programme for the year ahead, which aims to make similarly good quality repairs to areas of road around 25 square metres in size.

Separately, pre-planned resurfacing schemes see entire roads – or stretches of them – relaid, for which £11.7m has been earmarked for 2024/25.

Responding to Cllr Potter’s comments, the county council’s Conservative cabinet member for highways and transport Rupert Swarbrick, told the LDRS: “Our pothole repair policy remains unchanged, with our pothole repair teams working hard to deliver quality repairs that will withstand the test of time.

“We use a wide range of repair methods to make sure we can repair potholes as quickly as possible – and we use the most appropriate repair to suit the location, priority, traffic and weather conditions.

“Not all methods require cutting out of the surrounding surface, as we have innovative materials which are water activated or methods which fill the void then provide a waterproof layer over the top. All of these methods provide a quality, long lasting repair.

“Our cabinet has agreed to invest a further £4m on improving the condition of the highway network and this funding will ensure that areas which have been most impacted by pothole damage can be addressed with much larger patching and small resurfacing schemes ensuring that the network is protected from damage in the future,” County Cllr Swarbrick added.

However, Labour’s shadow highways cabinet member at County Hall, Kim Snape said it was “about time this issue was taken seriously by Lancashire County Council”.

“The roads are in a disgraceful state and it’s no wonder they are having to carry out multiple repeat visits to potholes if they are no longer sealing them,” County Cllr Snape said.

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