DCC survey shows the condition of Devon's roads has improved


The dragon patchers dry out potholes using flames before the material is laid. - Credit: Devon County Council

The overall condition of Devon’s roads has improved, but there are concerns about the impact of a planned cut in maintenance spending.

An annual survey of the county’s network, shows roads of all classifications have generally improved, with fewer being classified ‘red’ or potentially needing maintenance.

Seventy-one per cent of Devon’s A roads were rated as green in the survey, up from 67 per cent last year, with the number classed ‘red’ down to two per cent, half of that a decade ago.

C roads have also improved notably over the past 12 months, with the amount needing possible attention falling from 17 to 12 per cent. However, only half (49 per cent) are rated as green.

The report to the county council’s corporate, infrastructure and regulatory services scrutiny committee said additional funding and the continued use of hi-tech ‘dragon patchers’ that fix potholes has improved the situation.

The dragon patchers, which dry out potholes using flames before the material is laid, are predominantly used on smaller, rural roads where more conventional treatment methods, such as surface dressing, can’t be carried out.

Highways chief, Councillor Stuart Hughes (Conservative, Sidmouth) said: “This is a significant achievement for the service and demonstrates a positive impact of the changes to the ways of working.”

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He highlighted how the number of recorded potholes were generally below average, apart from higher numbers in June, July and August 2021.

The report said “the relatively benign weather throughout autumn and the start of winter has been a benefit” in cutting numbers, while the increase in the summer was blamed on “wet weather … and the reprogramming of annual inspections to the summer months.”

Despite the improvements, there are concerns that a planned £1.8 million cut in highways maintenance spending in the upcoming budget will impact roads, with increases in overall spending mainly going towards children’s and adult services.

Opposition leader Councillor Alan Connett (Lib Dem, Exminster & Haldon), said in a statement: “People across the county will be paying the price in more potholes and roads likely to be left longer for repairs and essential maintenance, and cuts to the budget to deal with winter emergencies.

“We’ve been lucky this year with a reasonable winter so far, but that doesn’t mean we’ll never have a bad weather winter again. Devon is not getting a fair deal from government.”

A final decision on the council budget and level of council tax will be made next month.