A man whose car was damaged by a deep pothole in the road is making a legal claim against Devon County Council for the repair costs.

Stephen Lee from Beer incurred a bill of £466.63 after damaging a wheel and tyre of his car on the badly potholed Seaton Road near Southleigh in December.

He made a claim for compensation from the council, through its official application process, but it was rejected.

He has now lodged a claim through the Small Claims Court on the basis that Devon County Council has failed in its legal duty of care to maintain the roads properly.

Mr Lee says he’s taking this action to make a stand on behalf of all motorists in Devon who’re having to put up with the poor state of the highways: “I can afford the money but I’m doing this as a matter of principle to help others.”

The council had refused to pay compensation because its legal department didn’t consider that the authority would be held liable for the damage to Mr Lee’s car. He was told that, although the council has a duty to maintain the highways, it cannot reasonably be expected to prevent or respond immediately to all defects.

But in his legal claim form, Mr Lee states: “My claim is that the council have a duty of care to maintain the roads so that they remain safe.”

He told the Herald: “They say ‘we’re short of money’, and I know other counties are as well, but the problem is that they haven’t invested the repair money properly in the past, they’ve just patched up, they’ve not done preventative maintenance.

“If they’d drilled along the side of the road, dug down and put in concrete, it would have protected the surface from water penetration from underneath.

“My argument is this: these things happen and the council are notified about it and they try to get it fixed as soon as possible, but the problem is that this has been going on for years, they do a cheap cosmetic repair but have historically failed to invest in preventative maintenance and the state of the roads now is that they’re dangerous.”

After having his compensation claim rejected Mr Lee returned to the scene of the pothole incident he had reported to the county council, and saw that the relevant section of road had been recently ‘patched up’ – but there was another large pothole right next to it that had been ignored.

He said: “The real point of those photos is that the system is not working – they’ve done the repair but left other holes in the same immediate vicinity.

“The roads in Devon are the worst I’ve seen anywhere, and I’ve driven all over the country.”

Mr Lee lodged his small claim on Friday, April 12. He is claiming a total of £529.67 – the cost of the repairs, plus interest, plus the court fee of £50. Devon County Council has 28 days to respond.