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Suffolk’s combined pothole problem is ‘deeper than the English Channel’

PUBLISHED: 16:36 24 October 2017 | UPDATED: 16:52 24 October 2017

Road defects identified by Ipswich borough councillor Colin Smart in his Sprites ward - which highways officials considered did not require repair. Picture: COLIN SMART

Road defects identified by Ipswich borough councillor Colin Smart in his Sprites ward - which highways officials considered did not require repair. Picture: COLIN SMART

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The combined depth of potholes reported in Suffolk last year is greater than the UK’s deepest cave, new research shows.

The combined depth of potholes recorded in Suffolk is four times greater than Ipswich's tallest building, Cranfield Mill. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY The combined depth of potholes recorded in Suffolk is four times greater than Ipswich's tallest building, Cranfield Mill. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY

Suffolk County Council received 5,802 reports of potholes in 2016 with a combined depth of at least 290 metres - in Essex it was 848m.

In comparison, the bottom of the English Channel is 174m below sea level, the UK’s deepest cave formation in Powys, Wales, is 275m, while Cranfield Mill, Ipswich’s tallest building, is 71m.

The figures refer only to reported potholes, meaning the full depth of road defects is likely to be greater, particularly as Suffolk County Council (SCC) has faced criticism over the way in which it judges road repairs to be necessary.

In August, following repeated complaints from people living in his Sprites ward, Ipswich borough councillor Colin Smart compiled a dossier of potholes and broken carriageways.

He provided images of 66 road defects to SCC’s highways officials but was told none met the criteria for repairs. Mr Smart said the criteria for fixing roads was “so strict it has become a farce”.

An SCC spokesman explained at the time that while many pictures showed a thin layer of asphalt had worn away, it did not mean the surface had a hole or was uneven. The council says it is investing more in road repairs.

Confused.com, the comparison website that produced the latest figures, said potholes had become a “major bugbear” among drivers and encouraged people to report bumps before they worsen.

Nationally, the research found 1,031,787 potholes were reported in 2016 with a combined depth of 40km – almost four times deeper than the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench.

Local authorities were asked to provide the total number of potholes reported and the minimum depth of a road defect to be considered a pothole, which was combined to determine the total depth. They were also asked to provide how much had been paid out to motorists in compensation.

Across the UK, £3.1million was paid out by almost half of the UK’s councils - in Suffolk the figure was £20,000.

The East of England’s combined pothole problem was found to be almost 3km deep, with Hertfordshire topping the regional tables at 1,112m.

In Norfolk, 6,365 potholes were reported last year with £40,379 spent on compensation.

Council chiefs say Suffolk’s roads are improving due to extra investment.

Deputy leader of Suffolk County Council, Jane Storey, said there had been a significant reduction in payouts due to damage caused on the road since 2014/15.

She said this was “a clear indication that the road network here in Suffolk is improving, no doubt helped by the £10million additional investment by the county council over the last two years”.

“Organisers of the Tour of Britain told us they wanted an entire stage in Suffolk this year because, in their words, our roads were better than those of other authorities,” she added. “If the amount allocated to local authorities from government for highways maintenance was to increase from the current £1billion a year to a greater proportion of the £38.3bn it gathers from vehicle excise duty and fuel tax, we would willingly accelerate the rate at which local roads are currently repaired.”

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