COUNTY highways bosses have been blasted over a suggestion it has reverted to “blobbing” potholes with tar, rather than carrying out more substantial repairs.

The authority has long made a virtue of the processes it uses to ensure more durable fixes so the same defects do not keep reappearing on Lancashire’s roads.

In response to a district council briefing furore county highways bosses have denied their policy has changed, but stress pothole-filling techniques will vary depending on the location and nature of each repair.

The main method designed to ensure longer-lasting repairs involves cutting out the area around a pothole and sealing the edges of the newly filled-in rectilinear patch.

But it has been claimed the county council has ‘confessed’ to returning, in some cases, to the more rudimentary option of pouring repair material directly into potholes - and simply flattening it down.

The risk then is water can find its way in around the edges of the hole and undo the repair job - leaving road workers making repeated visits to the same problem spots.

The county council insists all of its pothole-fixing techniques - some of which are waterproof even without cutting out a surrounding section of road - provide “quality, long-lasting repair[s]”.

But Preston City Council’s Liberal Democrat opposition group leader John Potter says he was advised during the County Hall briefing the authority had reverted to using blobs of bitumen over the past 18 months because it was a speedier option.

He says the admission came after he raised concerns at the meeting about the quality of repairs.

He said: “We’ve been asking questions about how the roads have got this bad - and now we know. They changed their processes 18 months ago and it’s been a disaster.

“They are paying people to come out several times to do a pothole - or a pothole that opens up next to a [repaired] one in a month’s time - instead of doing a proper sealing-off job. It’s a false economy.

“So when cabinet members say, ‘We’ve repaired X amount of potholes,’ that could be the same pothole three times, [because] they’ve done it in a cheap and nasty way.”

The blobbing technique is said to be for ‘reactive’ repairs on those potholes that exceed the 40mm depth at which engineers will fill them in.

The authority is still using the cut-and-seal technique as part of its Local Deterioration Fund. That cash pot, boosted with an extra £1.5m from County Hall’s coffers this month, is designed to avoid repeat visits to deal with dud repairs.

The county council has also created a £2.5m ‘responsive patching’ programme for the year ahead, to make similarly good quality repairs to areas of road around 25sqm in size. Elsewhere pre-planned resurfacing schemes see entire roads relaid, for which £11.7m has been earmarked for 2024/25.

County highways boss County Cllr Rupert Swarbrick, said: “Our pothole repair policy remains unchanged, with our pothole repair teams working hard to deliver quality repairs that will withstand the test of time.

“We use a wide range of repair methods to make sure we can repair potholes as quickly as possible - and we use the most appropriate repair to suit the location, priority, traffic and weather conditions.

“Not all methods require cutting out of the surrounding surface, as we have innovative materials which are water activated or methods which fill the void then provide a waterproof layer over the top. All of these methods provide a quality, long lasting repair."