Reaction to Stoke’s relaxation of pothole repair times

9th October 2019 Personal Injury

We cannot expect highways to be perfectly free from defects. But what we can expect is for local authorities to respond appropriately to defects seen by their highways inspectors when they go out to check on the roads in their areas. And what we need to be able to rely on is a system which requires a repair within a reasonable period of time.

Stoke City Council has announced a change to their 19-year-old highways policy relating to time frames for pothole repairs. The policy is being challenged at a meeting today.

A council spokesperson said that the policy has been brought in line with neighbouring authorities and if this happens then the council would be able to take up to 4 hours to repair what is described as an ‘emergency’ rather than two hours. For defects which are described as ‘posing a safety risk to the public’ the council would have 7 days rather than, as now,  just until the end of the next working day.

Councils can try and defend claims brought against them for injury and loss caused by a pothole defect if they have adhered to their policy. So, if they change their policy giving them more time to repair a defect then they might have more scope to defend claims. That means that these claims might be harder to pursue.

A feature in Stoke Sentinel online says that these plans ‘will see motorists wait even longer for repairs’ – but what about those on 2 wheels? For vulnerable road users eg those on bikes, very serious injuries can be caused by defects found on our roads. For these road users potholes are not just a nuisance or an inconvenience; they can kill.

Whereas there is some sympathy with councils needing to find the budgets to get our roads into an acceptable state because the public have faced years of underinvestment, the public should not have to tolerate potholes being left unrepaired on the roads for even longer

What is clear from Court decisions is that a lack of resource on the part of the council is no defence to claim.

Central government must drive the initiative to sort this problem out. I am currently dealing with a lot of cases for people with very serious injuries because of the state of our roads.

Nadia Kerr has called for a national online reporting tool which is accepted by all local authorities which integrates with records maintained by local authorities. This will help us all feel invested in the problem and the solution. Rather than complain and moan about the state of the roads, let’s do something about it. Let’s make sure that the facts are reported and that we are helping the council pinpoint where their precious resources need to be targeted. Using descriptive words to assist the council in prioritising repairs e.g. dangerous, accident already happened, crater, deep will help the council target the most urgent repairs.

This problem is not going to go away overnight but we can all help make our highways safer. Please report defects on our roads.

https://www.stokesentinel.co.uk/news/stoke-on-trent-news/revealed-major-council-shake-up-3393215 

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Nadia Kerr is a Partner located in Manchesterin our Bicycle AccidentsPersonal Injury departments

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