A ‘POTHOLE epidemic’ is causing misery for East Lancashire motorists and millions of pounds in repair costs, campaigners say.

An extra 6,000 potholes have been reported to the county council this winter due to the harsh weather conditions.

And an independent watchdog has warned unless more permanent repairs are carried out, motorists will face a ‘Third World road network’.

One highways chief blamed ‘shrinking council budgets and a deteriorating network’ on the shock rise.

Harle Syke resident John Clough, of Sandiway Drive, said the number of potholes in the area was unacceptable.

He said: “They are always cropping up round here because the water drains off the field behind the houses and lifts the road surface.

“Surely the council should have wised up to it by now and they should be ready for it when it happens.

“I’m not sure they do a good job either as if they were fixed properly they wouldn’t keep reappearing.

“At the moment there is a big one on the road as you go up towards Briercliffe Social Club.

“It needs sorting as they can cause real damage to cars going over them over and over again.”

In Nelson, a motorist spotted a five foot wide pothole in Back Lane.

According to independent watchdog Potholes.co.uk, the driver, called Gerry H, said: "I hit the mother of all pot holes travelling at 30mph in a Ford Fiesta, destroying the nearside front wheel, tyre and suspension. Estimated vehicle repair costs and recovery costs £768 plus VAT. I reported the pothole to the council. While I awaited recovery two lots of people stopped to offer assisstance and all said the pot hole had been in this state for at least three months. Not amused."

Other pothole-plagued roads in Burnley include Widow Hill Road, which leads to the new recycling plant in the town, and the Gannow Top roundabout.

In Rawtenstall potholes have been seen in Barritt Road and Haworth Avenue.

And a large pothole has appeared just outside the entrance of Wycoller Country Park.

Potholes.co.uk spokesman Duncan McClure Fisher said: “The pothole epidemic is the direct result of years of under-investment in our roads by the Government.

“Temporary fixes have just escalated the problem over the years and our highways have now got more holes than Swiss cheese.

“Unless more permanent repair materials and methods are adopted immediately, we may never again be able to get through a winter without having to contend with a Third World road network.”

Potholes are estimated to cause as many as one in five mechanical failures on East Lancashire’s roads.

From April 2011 to March 2012 Lancashire County Council paid out compensation of £52,799 for damage to vehicles from potholes.

According to the Local Government Association, which represents more than 370 councils including Lancashire and Blackburn with Darwen, many authorities will find it almost impossible to keep on top of road repairs if they are stripped of funding due to budget cuts.

The LGA said that the Department for Transport reductions to the highways maintenance budget for councils, would lead to an average 19 per cent drop by 2014/15.

But County Councillor Tim Ashton, cabinet member for highways and transport, said the county council budget would not be cut.

He said: "We have no intention of reducing the amount we spend on road repairs, particularly in light of the recent harsh winters, which mean we've repaired an extra 6,000 potholes a year.

“In the four years of the current administration, the county council has invested £32.5m in highway maintenance, in addition to the funding it gets from the government specifically for roads.

“This adds up to spending £205m in total over the four years to maintain our roads and footways.

Coun Dave Harling, Executive Member for Regeneration for Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: “The council spends hundreds of thousands of pounds every year maintaining the highway and fixing potholes across the borough.

“Clearly with shrinking council budgets and a deteriorating network the task is becoming more difficult."

Farmers' plea over country road repairs

A GROUP representing farmers and rural businesses is urging local councils in the region not to cut back on repairs to minor routes damaged by recent freezing temperatures, rain and snow.

With councils across the region facing severe budget cuts, The Country Land and Business Association believes minor roads provide a vital lifeline for rural businesses and need to be well maintained.

CLA North regional director Dorothy Fairburn said: “Freezing conditions always herald the start of the pothole season and while local councils are usually quick to repair damage to major roads they are often more tardy in their approach to minor routes.

“As the ongoing austerity measures continue to bite, we are seriously concerned that cash-starved councils will be tempted to further neglect rural roads, which are a key part of the infrastructure that underpins the rural economy.”

She added: “In the current economic climate rural businesses cannot afford to be further disadvantaged by having to pay hefty repair bills for vehicles damaged by potholes that should have been dealt with by the local council.”

County Coun Tim Ashton, cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “All reports of potholes are dealt with on the same basis irrespective of the type of road so there’s no question of neglecting rural roads.”

Garage owner John Hargreaves who runs a car repair garage AAA Auto Services on Crosse Hall Street, Chorley, said that in recent months he had seen pothole damage more frequently.
He said: “Both myself and colleagues in the industry are seeing more and more damage come in from vehicles being affected by potholes.

“Problems can range from tyre, suspension and bodywork damage to exhausts and sumps becoming cracked or detached.”

Chairman of Blackburn Hackney Carriage Association Mohammed Younis said: “My members are increasing concerned about the state of roads throughout East Lancashire.

“The wet weather over months and months has seen potholes opening up on roads and drivers are reporting damage to their cabs. It’s worse at night as it’s much harder to see the potholes in the dark.”