COUNTY Hall argues against a report that reveals Lancashire County Council owns one of the highest numbers of 'substandard' road bridges in the country.

Lancashire County Council owns the seventh highest number of substandard road bridges in Great Britain and the highest number in the North of England, according to analysis provided by RAC Foundation.

The analysis shows there are 104 bridges in Lancashire which have been classed as 'substandard'.

Substandard bridges are defined as structures that have weight restrictions and are under programmes of increased monitoring or managed decline.

According to the research group, some bridges are substandard because they were built to earlier design standards, while others have deteriorated through age and use.

The number of council-owned road bridges deemed substandard rose 7% in the last year, new figures show.

Lancashire County Council has argued that the number of 'substandard' bridges is 'relatively low' compared to the other councils named in the report.

A spokesman for Lancashire County Council said: "We're named in the RAC's report as we're one of the largest counties, and have 1,473 bridges, however the 7% they have rated as substandard is relatively low compared with other councils named.

"The RAC report refers to bridges over 1.5m in span that are not fit to carry the heaviest vehicles.

"Weight restrictions can be needed for historical reasons, because the bridge was not designed for today's large vehicles and heavy traffic, as well as to manage any emerging maintenance issues and prevent the need for further restrictions before repairs can be carried out.

"We have an annual programme to inspect and maintain our bridges, and have recently been successful in bidding to government for funding when repairs to our most important bridges are needed.

"Examples of this are the major repairs to Burnley's Centenary Way bridge carried out in 2015/16, and the repairs to Lancaster's Greyhound Bridge due to begin shortly."

Devon has the highest number of substandard bridges at 249, followed by Somerset with 168, Essex with 160 and Cornwall with 144.

Some 3,441 bridges in Britain were not fit to support the heaviest lorries in 2016/17, according to motoring research charity RAC Foundation.

This represents around one in every 22 of the 74,000 bridges on the local road network and is up from 3,203 the previous year.

The total cost of clearing the backlog of work on all bridges, including those that are substandard, was estimated at £5 billion, up from £3.9 billion a year earlier.

RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding said the figures were "unwelcome, if unsurprising".

He said: "The road maintenance crisis faced by financially beleaguered councils is often reported in terms of potholes to be filled, but this research hints at the wide spectrum of things needing attention, including blocked gullies, overgrown verges and, of course, fragile bridges."

Martin Tett, transport spokesman at the local government association, representing more than 370 councils in England and Wales, insisted local authorities were "doing what they can" to maintain roads in the face of "increasing budgetary pressures".