Originally Published May 3, 2020Embed from Getty Images
The state of East Sussex’s roads has been heavily criticised in recent months with residents urging the council to fix the problem and ensure the safety of locals.
East Sussex Highways is responsible for maintaining over 2000 miles of highway in the county, however many feel their maintenance has been ineffective, the most pressing issue being the number of potholes that present a serious risk to motorists and cyclists.
Revenue funding, which comes from Council tax, business rates and Government grants is used to facilitate the work of the maintenance teams throughout the year, however, wet winter weather since November 2019 has meant that the number of problems exceeds capability.
Highways across the county such as North Street, Alfriston Road and Litlington Road were among those closed due to flooding as recently as March.
Cause of the problem
On average, 30,000 safety defects are repaired per year at a fixed cost of £1.5m, but the County Council reported that have been more than 11,000 potholes since November 2019 alone – triple the amount during the same period in the previous year.
As reported by the Bexhill-On-Sea Observer, Chancellor Claire Dowling, lead member for transport and environment, said: “This winter’s weather led to an increase in the number of potholes. Normally we would get between 3,500 to 4,000 but this year we have dealt with more than 11,000 potholes.
“We are working flat out, we have increased the number of contractor’s gangs from 10 to 16, and potholes that have been reported are being repaired.”
While the weather has worsened the situation, Liberal Democrat group leader David Tutt believes cuts to the council’s highways maintenance budget, which is reported to be savings of £889,000 in this financial year, has had a significant negative impact.
Speaking to the Sussex Express, Tutt commented: “The evidence of that saving is only too obvious. I was travelling the other day and I saw the car in front of me weaving all over the road like he was drunk, until I realised what he was actually doing was trying to avoid the potholes.
“[Potholes] are many and numerous across East Sussex now. I get many contacts from people, not just within my own area but across the county, who are concerned about these. Some of these are now the size of moon craters.
“What we are seeing are potholes that need desperately to be filled, but I believe it goes beyond that. If you look at some roads they are actually breaking up.”
Impact of the poor road quality
The poor quality of roads is a widespread county issue, however rough areas on Little Ridge Avenue in St Leonards, outside ARK Little Ridge Community Primary school, have created a particularly dangerous situation for local pedestrians.
The resurfacing of the road has become a priority concern for the community group who are trying to improve the local area, and more importantly, protect children as they journey to and from school.
Glynnis Card, a local resident, said: “I’ve lived on Little Ridge Avenue for the last 25 years and the state of the road has gradually been deteriorating during this time.
“The council come and fix the rough patches every now and then, but the road is always busy because of the school, so it doesn’t take long for it to become dangerous again.
“The road desperately needs to be resurfaced, is it going to take a car accident or a schoolchild to get hurt before the council take serious action?”
An East Sussex Highways spokesperson has confirmed that improvements on the road are scheduled to take place this summer, although it is currently unclear how the current Coronavirus pandemic will affect these plans.
Lewis Isted, 22, is another individual campaigning for permanent repairs rather than temporary fixes, and the Hailsham resident launched a petition titled ‘Bring Hailsham’s Roads Back To Their Former Glory!’.
Although the petition was rejected, because the responsibility of roads in Hailsham lies with the East Sussex County Council and not the UK Government, an East Sussex Highways spokesman responded to Lewis’ concerns.
As reported by the Eastbourne Herald, the spokesman said: “Our highways stewards are out all year round carrying out regular inspections of all the county’s roads and responding to reports received from the public.
“We have been made aware of defects in some of these roads in Hailsham and our stewards have instructed repairs, some of which have been completed and some of which are in our maintenance programme to be repaired.
“We invest £15million a year in resurfacing roads, repaired more than 26,000 potholes last year alone, and have committed an additional £1million in 2020-21 for work including patching.
“However, we only have very limited resources so have to prioritise work on those most in need repair – regardless of where in the county they are – according to national guidelines and county council policies.”
Looking at the road ahead
Works are scheduled to commence in some areas, for example the first major phase of a road improvement scheme in Crowborough will begin once gas main works in the town centre are completed.
Structural repairs, carriageway resurfacing works and drainage improvements are all scheduled to take place as part of the programme.
However, despite the improvements in Crowborough, a lack of funding in addition to the Coronavirus situation means there is no current prospect of widespread improvements across the county.
Commenting on their website about the approach to the pandemic, a spokesperson for East Sussex Highways said:
“Our primary aim is to continue to work to keep roads in East Sussex safe, particularly for emergency services, key workers and distribution of essential supplies.
“We are continuing with most repair work, and are continuing to review our planned programme of more extensive improvements in the light of many unknowns including likely availability of workers, materials, equipment and the need to maintain social distancing within the workforce.”
Residents are encouraged to continue reporting problems, using the East Sussex Highways website to submit issues 24 hours a day.
Dowling, C. (2020) ‘State of East Sussex roads’ by Huw Oxburgh. Bexhill-On-Sea Observer. March 4, 2020.
Tutt, D. (2020) ‘State of East Sussex roads’ by Huw Oxburgh. Sussex Express. March 4, 2020.
Card, G. (2020) Little Ridge Avenue interview. Joe Barnbrook, March 15, 2020.
East Sussex Highways spokesman. (2020) ‘Hailsham man on a mission’ by Jennifer Logan. Eastbourne Herald. March 12, 2020.
Author Unknown. Easy Sussex Highways website, https://www.eastsussexhighways.com/, accessed March 25, 2020