Pothole repairs in West Sussex ‘not good enough’

Temporary pothole repairs in West Sussex have not been of a good enough standard over the past three months, councillors have been told.

A pothole pictured in February
A pothole pictured in February

In January, teams from Balfour Beatty dealt with 2,400 repairs but Matt Davey, the county council’s director of highways, said the firm was ‘probably not’ achieving the standards needed.

Mr Davey told an environment and communities scrutiny committee meeting on Thursday: “We have been in conversation with the contractor about why we’ve got to that state and what we can do about that.”

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With Balfour Beatty recently awarded a new contract with the council Mr Davey added: “We want to start on April 1 with a clear understanding between ourselves and the contractor that these are the standards we’re expecting and this is what we want to see in terms of the quality that’s delivered.”

Questions were asked about the ongoing use of temporary repairs to deal with potholes – only for those repairs to fail following rainfall or frost.

Dr James Walsh (Lib Dem, Littlehampton East) said he was ‘shocked’ when told that no substantial changes would be made to the way potholes were repaired or the materials used.

He said he knew of potholes that had been repaired more than half a dozen times but still crumbled.

The meeting was told repair teams had been increased from eight to 12 to help deal with the ongoing problems – but Dr Walsh asked whether that was enough.

He said: “It clearly isn’t enough at the moment because the situation is actually much worse this year – and last year was worse than the year before.

“It’s a growing problem each winter and so we’ve got to do something.”

Describing the ‘perfect’ roads seen on a recent holiday to South Africa, Dr Walsh said: “It is a scandal that we cannot keep our roads from deteriorating to Third World standards in this country.

“We’ve got to do something about it nationally as well as in West Sussex.”

Mr Davey said the teams would deal with 35,000 repairs over the coming year and pointed out there had been ‘a significant reduction’ in the highways budget over the last ten years.

He added: “The public’s perception is they would love everything to be fixed to a very high standard very quickly.

“It would be great if we could do that but even if I was given an unlimited budget – and I’m not – I still wouldn’t be able to guarantee that every single pothole and every single defect would be fixed to a very high standard within the time-frames that members of the public demand – and to an extent the county council demands in terms of response times.

“In a lot of cases we have no option but to accept that defects are repaired on a temporary basis in order that the highway is immediately made safe.”

Reporting more calls than ever from the public since Christmas, he acknowledged: “The quality of the temporary repairs, certainly over the last three months, has not been to the standard that we would accept.”