Lancashire County Council is proposing to change the way it responds to highway maintenance issues, to ensure that the most serious problems are fixed the quickest.
A report to the council’s Cabinet recommends prioritising repairs to problems such as potholes, broken drain grates, loose paving, and damaged bollards on the busiest roads and pavements.
The proposed Highway Safety Inspection Policy will be used by the county council’s highway inspectors, who patrol the county’s roads throughout the year to decide how to record defects and assess how urgently they need dealing with.
Response times will vary according to risk, with the most serious issues made safe or fixed within 4 hours, and response times for other problems ranging from 2 days, to 20 days.
The depth at which a pothole will be fixed remains the same as the previous policy introduced in 2015 – 4cm deep on roads, and 2.5cm deep on pavements. Until now the council has not defined how wide a pothole must be to need repairing, but the new policy recommends adopting measures that highway inspectors already use for practical purposes – with those on roads needing to be at least 15cm across, and those on pavements 10cm wide.
County Councillor Keith Iddon, cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “We have inspectors working year-round to check our roads for safety and pick up on anything which needs fixing. Repairs are then carried out by our highways teams, who also respond to problems reported by the public.
“We’re proposing to update the policy used by our inspectors to reflect the latest national guidance which places an emphasis on risk. This takes into account two main factors – the chance of someone who is using the road being affected, which is more likely on the busiest roads – and the impact, which is linked to how serious the problem is and its position on the road.
“We’re therefore proposing to fix or make safe the most serious problems most quickly – for example we would look to respond to a missing manhole cover on a busy A-road or motorway with 4 hours – and allow more time to respond to other issues which are less likely to have an impact, for example a slightly sunken drain on a quiet rural road.”
The proposed Highway Safety Inspection Policy recommends that an extra two working days be added to target response times for reports received from the public, allowing time for highways staff to assess the problem.
The policy also sets out targets for the council to monitor its own performance. This includes a target for responding to 95% of the most urgent issues within 4 hours, and for 90% of other issues to be repaired within the target response times of 2, 5, 10 or 20 working days.
County Councillor Iddon added: “We’re grateful for people helping to ensure our roads are safe by reporting problems. Once we’ve assessed the issue, any report from the public will be dealt with in the same way as if it was found by our own inspectors.
“Emergencies will be dealt with immediately, but it could take up to two days for us to assess other issues, and up to 20 working days to make the repair. However I’d ask that people help to speed up this process by providing accurate information about the problem and the exact location.
“I know that the standard of our roads is a real concern for people, which is why it’s also one of our top priorities, and why we’re planning to spend £10m on fixing potholes over the next year out of a total road maintenance budget of £23m.
“I’m recommending this policy to Cabinet as the targets within it will also help us to closely monitor our performance on all aspects of high maintenance, hold ourselves to account, and ensure we’re directing resources where they’re most needed.”
The proposal will be considered at the Cabinet meeting on Thursday 12 April.