In a move to try and ensure that the most pressing issues on the county's roads are addressed more promptly, Lancashire County Council is changing they way it responds to highway maintenance issues.
After a report to the council's Cabinet recommended 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 roads, recording defects and assessing how urgently they need dealing with.
Response times will vary according to risk, with the most serious issues made safe or fixed within four hours, while the response times for other problems will range from two to 20 days. A topic of increasing interest is potholes, and while the depth at which a pothole will be fixed remains 4cm on roads and 2.5cm on pavements, the new policy recommends adopting policy defining how wide a pothole must be to require repairing, with those on roads needing to be at least 15cm across and those on pavements 10cm.
"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," said County Councillor Keith Iddon, cabinet member for highways and transport. "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.
"We're proposing to update the policy used by our inspectors to reflect the latest national guidance which places an emphasis on risk," County Cllr Iddon added. "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 and allow more time to respond to other issues which are less likely to have an impact."
The proposed Highway Safety Inspection Policy also 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, and sets out targets for the council to monitor its own performance, including an aim to respond to 95% of the most urgent issues within four hours, and for 90% of other issues to be repaired within the target response times of two, five, 10, or 20 working days.
"We're grateful for people helping to ensure our roads are safe by reporting problems," County Cllr Iddon said. "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," he continued. "However I'd ask that people help to speed up this process by providing accurate information about the problem and the exact location."
The proposal will be considered at the Cabinet meeting on Thursday 12 April.