Pothole plan in Northamptonshire 'proving a success'

Image caption,
Last winter's severe weather has left behind its mark on the roads

A pioneering approach to dealing with the repair of potholes in Northamptonshire appears to be succeeding.

Last year the council decided instead of patching up the holes as they were reported, officers would consider whether the whole road needed work.

The council said it may take longer to deal with individual potholes, but it takes a more considered approach.

The new initiative has seen a fall in the number of potholes reported.

In January 2010, 1,973 potholes were reported compared to 1,635 potholes reported in the same period of 2011.

Over the same period the number of carriageway defects repaired has increased from 2,325 in January 2010 to 5,083 in January 2011.

BBC research has found that Northamptonshire County Council is planning to spend about £30m in 2011-12 on pothole repair, roughly the same as last year.

In 2010 it paid out £10,995 in compensation relating to potholes and highways maintenance, down from the £32,984 it paid out in 2009.

'Headless chickens'

Heather Smith, cabinet member for highways and transportation, was one of the driving forces behind the new approach.

"Last winter we had very severe conditions in January and February and in the previous year we had a bad spell," she said.

"Potholes became a huge issue. I was constantly on BBC Radio Northamptonshire with people inundating me with complaints about streets and potholes.

"A pothole would appear in the road, sling some tarmac down and rush off to the next one. They were like headless chickens.

"That was because the national guideline was to fix them within 24 hours. We never had any time to plan anything."

Following that winter, the council reviewed the way it dealt with potholes.

"We decided to take the risk of going against national guidelines - with a completely new way of dealing with the repair of roads.

"Instead of repairing every pothole within 24 hours, we will do it within five days - which gives us time to plan it."

So in some cases a whole road will be repaired rather than just one hole being patched up.

"We decided to take the risk and fix it properly," she said.

She stressed that big craters will be repaired quickly in emergency situations.

Mrs Smith said although they are still waiting to fully evaluate the scheme, she has noticed far fewer complaints this year compared to last.

She said the council is also committed to improving streets in estates across the county.

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