DON'T abandon Devon's country roads - that's the message from one Mid Devon District Councillor following the news that Devon County Council has invited the Prime Minister to come and see the impact the weather has had on the county's road network.
Cllr Des Hannon, who represents Tiverton East, has urged the County Council not to forget about the county's rural and country roads, after it was announced that an estimated £750 million was required to bring its entire road network up to a good standard.
He said: “It's a really mixed picture - I think the severe weather has certainly caused some damage to the A-roads, but what I think is really bad is our rural roads and that's not just down to the weather. I think we have under spent on the rural and country roads for a while and that is now reflected in the backlog of damage.
“I do understand that the A-roads take priority and that we need to prioritise, but we can't just abandon the country roads.”
Severe weather has caused a number of potholes and uneven stretches on some of Devon's roads, as a mixture of heavy rain and freezing temperatures has taken its toll.
Councillor Stuart Hughes, the County Council Cabinet Member for Highway Management and Flood Prevention, has written to David Cameron to ask for the opportunity to discuss concerns over road maintenance with Ministers and Government officials.
As well as asking Mr Cameron to consider the difficulties Devon is currently facing, it would also be an opportunity to explain the steps being taken by the County Council to drive efficiencies in the way it is working and in commissioning its highway maintenance service.
In his letter to the PM, Cllr Hughes said: “Continued Central Government cuts in funding for highway maintenance are a major long-standing problem in Devon. The previous Government pursued a policy that unfairly favoured urban areas and we have never recovered from that. We are unable to stop the continued deterioration of the highway network and we see a massive backlog building up for the future.
“Whilst we were fortunate to receive around £3 million of Bellwin funding from the Government last year, this only went part way towards addressing the County Council's actual bill of £18 million for damage to its highways. Bellwin cannot be used to fund permanent repairs, which are the big ticket items facing Councils after major storm damage.
“The damage to Devon's highways network, the largest in England, is a particular concern for the local economy and resilience of our communities. The immediate clear up and cleaning work is only part of the challenge, and with high water tables, a saturated highway network, and predicted freezing conditions to come, the impact on the safety and condition of our highways could be massive.”