CAMPAIGN: Council calls on public who are the 'eyes and ears' to report potholes

This picture shows a pothole being repaired in West Sussex '“ one of 250 on our roads which are fixed every day, and one of 35,000 repaired every year.

Highways crews fixing a pothole in Haywards Heath today (March 9)
Highways crews fixing a pothole in Haywards Heath today (March 9)

It took highways crews about ten minutes and at a full repair, it costs £250.

While observing, we chatted to Bob Lanzer, cabinet member for highways and infrastructure, and Richard Speller, highways manager, to find out how the council were tackling potholes on our roads.

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Mr Lanzer said: “Currently we have 12 pothole repair teams from our contractor, Balfour Beatty Living Places, repairing 250 per day.

Highways crews fixing a pothole in Haywards Heath today (March 9)

“The total potholes repaired for the financial year April 2017 to date is 16,368. And the total for the last three months is 6,564 – compared to 5,430 in the corresponding period in 2017.

“Of the 4,000km of roads, we resurface around 50km a year. The quicker we know about the potholes the quicker we can assess the risk.

“The majority are dealt with within 28 days, or sooner, dependent on severity. The county council is responsible for maintaining around 2,500 miles of road.

“Repairing defects, such as potholes, is done on a priority basis, dependent on size and depth.”

Bob Lanzer and Richard Speller

Mr Lanzer said the council needs members of the public, who are the ‘eyes and ears’, to report potholes on the Love West Sussex app, so they can be fixed quicker. “Residents are the eyes and ears for the county council as we can’t be everywhere,” he said.

He also highlighted the dedicaton of highways staff during the recent cold snap and added: “I would like to thank all of the highways team for their hard work in adverse conditions over recent weeks. They have done a great job in keeping the main highways clear.”

Highways crews carry out two types of job on potholes, either a permanent repair which costs about £250 or a temporary ‘tap and slap’ where cold material is used at a cost of £35.

The council’s contractor Balfour Beatty has to balance which type of repair to carry out in each case.

Highways crews with the fixed pothole

Mr Speller said: “We have a dedicated team of inspectors checking every road in the county once a year. Some roads are visited every month.

“But it is a great help when people report potholes to us through the Love West Sussex app, as this extra information enables us to gather work programmes far quicker and get it over to our contractor, so potholes can be repaired quicker.

“Our primary objective is to keep the highway safe. There are 800,000 people living in West Sussex and we believe that something like half a million people everyday use our network, either to drive, walk, and cycle, so that is a lot of people who can report problems to us, and we encourage them to use the app.”

Love West Sussex gives residents objects to compare the size of a pothole to – for example a can of baked beans or a golf ball. “It is really important people report them on here,” said Mr Speller.

“Our highway stewards and managers are willing to inspect the network a few times a year, but residents might be inspecting it 300 times a year, and that makes a big difference.”

Many people have been left counting the personal cost of a close encounter with a pothole and felt the frustration of wondering why, when we pay so much in various taxes, the roads which are at the heart of all aspects of daily life, are in such a bad way.

Mr Speller told us that people were getting ‘reasonable roads’. He said: “Most people pay about £2,000 a year in council tax and of that seven per cent goes to highways, so that’s £150 a year, which is £3 a week.

“This gives you 4,000km of roads to drive on. Yes, they are not perfect, but for just £3, you are getting reasonable roads.

“People’s view on the world is the problem outside their house but my view is 4,000km of roads.

“In an ideal world we would be able to do a full repair like this one all the time, but it is not possible.

“We can do about ten to 20 ‘tap and slaps’ a day and these can last a couple of years. Our main concern is to get the high way safe quickly for people.”

Mr Speller said the council deal with 800 pothole complaints a month, which are dealt with by a dedicated team.

They also deal with up to 2,000 damage claims from residents due to potholes. “If we have failed someway through the system, then we will of course put up our hands to this,” added Mr Speller.

The county council has three main highways depots at Oving near Chichester, in Clapham near Worthing, and Hickstead off the A23, as well as two smaller locations at Midhurst and Broadbridge Heath.

The roads are inspected dependent on their hierarchy, with A and B classification ordinarily inspected on a monthly basis. C-class and main distributor roads on a three or six-monthly basis and declassified roads are typically inspected annually.

While the county council is responsible for most roads in West Sussex, Highways England is responsible for, and maintains, the A27, A23 and M23.

Our paper launched a campaign this week, to coincide with National Pothole Day yesterday.

We need residents to send us a photo or video of a pothole that is causing you greatest concern. Find out more in this week's paper.

To watch a video of the pothole in Haywards Heath being fixed click here.