Pothole reports in Herefordshire are increasing; this combined with escalating repair costs, has sparked urgent calls for improved infrastructure.
The county witnessed a stark 44 per cent rise in pothole complaints to 4,422 in the financial year 2022/23. Encouragingly, repair efforts kept pace, with the Herefordshire Council carrying out 30,069 restorations, a near 10 per cent increase from the previous year. Still, the price tag of these repairs showed a slight upward trend, reaching £1.78 million.
The data was uncovered by two freedom of information requests, which also unearthed a shocking expenditure of nearly £329,074 by the council since 2016, compensating for pothole-related damages. Out of this figure, £81,300 was consumed by legal costs. Despite 1,707 claims being filed over the period, only one in 12 saw success.
Among these, the costliest claim related to a pedestrian mishap at New Mills Farm Road, Hoarwithy, costing the council £13,895, primarily due to legal expenses. The pedestrian had fallen after their foot stumbled into a pothole.
These revelations come hot on the heels of last month’s council elections where the state of the county’s roads became a hot-button issue. In response, the minority-controlled Conservatives vowed to confront the issue head-on.
Recently, the resurfacing of Kyrle Street, a project backed by Ross West county councillor Louis Stark, illustrated a noteworthy win in the quest for better local infrastructure. This was made possible by the Market Towns Fund, an initiative aimed at nurturing the growth of the county’s market towns. Stark has pledged to fight for Ross’s share of the fund, expecting about £200,000 to be allocated to the town this year.
Frustration lingers with the previous county council administration, as Stark questions the uneven resource distribution favouring Hereford. He emphasised the need for priority to be given to local communities, like Ross, stating that they should “represent Ross first, then... the county.”
Looking ahead, Councillor Stark plans to focus on upgrading pedestrian pathways, dedicating this year’s remaining budget to the refurbishment of some of the town’s most run-down footpaths. Archenfield Road and pathways in Walford have been earmarked for attention. There’s also talk of traffic regulation changes, including turning Kent Avenue into a one-way street, to improve road safety. Stark admits a long road lies ahead, with thoroughfares like Eddie Cross Street and Old Town Over Ross needing substantial overhauls that may cost millions. Despite these hurdles, the councillor remains steadfast, rallying for more success stories like Kyrle Street.
Cars on the road have increased, not only in number, but also the size - putting a never-before-seen pressure on road infrastructure. Larger vehicles have become the norm on the roads; the Gazette recently reported on TV presenter Richard Hammond’s new massive gas guzzling daily driver, the Dodge RAM TRX, which gets 14 miles to the gallon. Councillors are in the unenviable position of having to protect infrastructure from the challenges of today’s cars.