Long Melford councillors furious at declining state of roads
Two Long Melford councillors believe the current state of roads in Suffolk is “as bad as it has ever been”, claiming new potholes are appearing faster than the rate of repairs.
County councillor Richard Kemp and district councillor John Nunn have called on Suffolk County Council’s highways department to radically improve how it deals with potholes, arguing the current procedure has failed to properly address the rapidly growing problem.
Mr Nunn took a tour of roads in Long Melford this month, photographing dozens of potholes, the biggest of which are six inches deep, and he said a number of motorists have informed him their vehicles have been damaged because of them.
Mr Kemp said other parishes he represents, including Alpheton and Glemsford, are “up in arms” about the deterioration of the roads, adding that many residents did not feel their tax money was being put to good use.
The issue was further highlighted this week when the Boxford Tornado, a popular annual cycling sportive scheduled to take place last Sunday, was delayed by more than two months, with organisers explaining the number of potholes on the planned route made it too dangerous to hold the event at this time.
A spokesman for Suffolk County Council insisted it is continuing its “war on potholes” and is bringing together all available resources in order to achieve its stated objective.
Last month, it confirmed it had received 11,000 reports of potholes since the start of 2018 – 5,000 more than this time last year, and stated a backlog in repairs had emerged, as resources were drawn away to respond to the severe weather conditions.
Suffolk Highways says the severe weather earlier this year, particularly the Beast from the East, has made an enormous impact on the county’s roads.
The authority said it is deploying more resources to support inspections and repairs, and is using better temporary material for emergency repair.
Borrowing to resurface
It is also borrowing £21 million to resurface a quarter of the county’s roads by 2021.
Mr Nunn told the Free Press he had been in touch with Jane Storey, Suffolk’s cabinet member for highways and transport, about the condition of the roads in Long Melford, and had been disappointed by her response.
He said if the situation did not improve soon, he felt Cllr Storey should step down and hand the role to somebody who is “up to the job” of dealing with the problems of potholes.
“There are some really dangerous potholes now. What a disgraceful situation our roads are in at this time,” he said.
“Richard and myself have had a good rapport with officers in the highways department, but that has retreated in the last few months.
“There was a white line issue outside the Bull Hotel in Hall Street, and it took over a year for the lines to be repainted. That’s an example of what we are up against.
“I think the standards have never been so low.”
Mr Kemp argued the system for addressing potholes needed to be much better organised, claiming that, under the current process, a reported defect would be repaired, while an unreported one on the very same road would not be dealt with.
“Why do they not do it on a geographic basis and send a crew out and do a road at a time?,” he said.
“It’s totally ludicrous how it’s approached. I honestly think the current method is totally uneconomic.
“I think the government, not just Suffolk County Council, has got to start to learn that, when people pay their taxes, they expect a certain level of service.
“It’s so frustrating. At every parish meeting, I have to apologise because Suffolk County Council is not justifying itself in tax terms.”
These criticisms come after the organisers of the Boxford Tornado confirmed the cycling event will now take place on July 1, in order to allow time for the state of the roads to be improved.
Following the announcement of the delay, the organising committee said: “In past years, we have worked closely with Suffolk County Council to make sure the roads used are in a satisfactory condition, but, because of the backlog of work, the necessary repairs will not be completed in time.”
In response, a spokesman for Suffolk County Council said: “We have been prioritising our resources in areas of high volumes of customer reports, specifically in the west of the county.
“Potholes that meet our intervention criteria are then ordered for repair and the work is scheduled to follow over the next week or so.
“We would like to thank the public for reporting defects via our reporting tool.
“We are continuing our war on potholes and are bringing together all available resources to manage incoming reports and get these defects assessed and, if necessary, repaired as soon as possible.”