South West motorists receive £800,000 in pothole compensation

By Claire Jones
BBC News Online

image captionA large pothole closed a road between two Devon villages in March

Pothole damage has prompted pay-outs of more than £800,000 to drivers in Devon and Cornwall in the past six years.

Local authority figures show drivers in Devon have been paid 15 times more than motorists in Cornwall - who have been compensated with nearly £45,000.

Spending on pothole repairs has also risen by an extra £65,000 a week in Devon.

The county council says that more than 200 potholes are being reported on Devon's roads every day.

The figures, released to the BBC from Freedom of Information requests, show that across the four local authorities, £807,033 has been paid out.

The Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance Survey 2013 states the average cost to fill a pothole in England is £52 and the total amount spent filling potholes in the past year in England was £99m.

Councillor Stuart Hughes, from Devon County Council, said: "We're seeing extensive damage right across Devon's 8,000 miles of roads, which is the biggest highway network of any authority in the country.

"We have seen pothole numbers increase from about 2,000 a month in a normal winter to about 7,400 in January alone. In response, we have almost tripled the number of teams dealing with pothole safety defect repairs from 13 to 34, with an extra 52 staff tackling the problem."

Devon County Council has rejected approximately 50% of pothole compensation claims made in the last three years.

During the past six years, the most expensive independent compensation claim in the region was £5,629 in Plymouth.

A Plymouth City Council spokeswoman said: "We are doing everything we can, in the face of significant government cuts, to make extra money available to tackle the growing pothole problem, which is affecting all parts of the country."

Cornwall Council's Bert Biscoe said: "We always respond to acute safety hazards and regularly inspect the network for defects."

A Torbay Council spokeswoman said: "We continue to work with the resident and business community to minimise the risk of potholes by carrying out repairs in accordance with our highway inspection Code of Practice."

image captionThis 6ft pothole in Devon was caused when mud and soft material was forced to the surface

Norman Smith, a former building and chemical supply technician, said he was a specialist in road and motorways repairs.

He said there were two methods of repair. The first is to brush out the pothole, insert tar, roll out and move on, which he said was the "cowboy method".

The second and more successful, he said, was to cut out the pothole, prime with warm tar, fill with bitumen and roll out.

"I'm angry because they're putting a sticky plaster on an injury rather than treating it.

"It's a waste of money and potholes are a danger for motorcyclists and other drivers," he said.

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