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How big do potholes need to be before councils fix them?

By Mathilda Bartholomew | May 23, 2024

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Channel 4's latest Dispatches documentary exposed significant variations in how local authorities evaluate pothole severity and determine when to repair them.

How big do potholes need to be before councils fix them?

UK councils can't agree on when to fix potholes, and almost a third won't publish their criteria online. Channel 4's latest Dispatches documentary revealed big differences in how local authorities assess pothole severity and decide when to repair them.

Out of 206 councils responsible for roads, about a third (35%) only fix potholes that reach a certain width or depth, but these standards vary. Most (54 councils) require a pothole to be at least 4cm deep, while places like Nottingham, Thurrock, and Warwickshire won't act until it's 5cm deep.

In some areas, like Buckinghamshire, Stockport, and Devon, a pothole must be 30cm wide (about the size of an A4 sheet of paper) and 4cm deep before they repair it.

On the other hand, 29% of councils don't publish their criteria for fixing potholes, and 37% use a risk-based approach, which isn't clear about what qualifies a pothole for repair.

These findings have led the RAC to call for the government to provide new guidelines to ensure consistency in how potholes are prioritised and fixed. RAC spokesperson Rod Dennis mentioned his concerns stating,  “there’s an urgent need for Whitehall to provide fresh guidance to councils to bring about consistency when it comes to prioritising potholes and taking action to fix them.”

“[The RAC is] also concerned about reports that some councils are refusing compensation claims from drivers who have damaged their cars from potholes, by stating they already have them scheduled for repair – even if that repair isn’t due for months.”

This issue comes alongside the Asphalt Industry Alliance's (AIA) annual ALARM report from March, which estimates that fixing all of Britain’s potholes could cost up to £16.3 billion, a 16% increase from last year.

The Department for Transport has reallocated an extra £8.3 billion from the cancelled part of the HS2 rail project, but the AIA says this only offsets inflation and doesn't add new funding.

How bad do you think the pothole situation is in the UK? Let us know in the comments...

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