It all started last week when some readers got in touch to complain about the number of potholes on the roads they use in Harrogate, particularly in the Otley Road area.
Despite receiving additional funding for pothole repairs from the Government of £2.4m, North Yorkshire County Council admitted it has a fight on its hands.
One important thing we can reveal is that, as far as potholes are concerned, anything above 40mm in depth is officially unacceptable.
But how many potholes are there exactly in North Yorkshire?
It’s an important question, especially as complaints from the public about the state of our roads continue to rise.
But it’s a question no one can seem to answer.
A Freedom of Information Act request made by this newspaper to North Yorkshire County Council on the number of potholes repaired by NYCC drew the following response from the relevant department:
“This information is not recorded and would require manual interrogation of over 120,000 orders / instructions to contractors to work out.”
As for the amount of taxpayers’ money the county council spends in repairing potholes, enlightenment, sadly, was not forthcoming to this particular FOI request, either.
The reply was: “The amount spent from the basic maintenance budget on fixing potholes cannot be determined.
“The majority of general maintenance works, including pothole treatment are undertaken on an overarching maintenance order, which may cover a variety of maintenance works on the highway.
“Dangerous pot holes found during inspection or the undertaking of core business may be filled as and when encountered. Any estimate of specific spending would consequently be meaningless.”
One fact that is not in dispute is that almost half of the budget of North Yorkshire County Council is now spent on adult social care. And it’s a situation which is unlikely to change soon since almost a quarter of the residents of North Yorkshire are aged 65 or over, a percentage which is rising.
In a county that is England’s largest with 6000 miles of public highways,and a relatively small population of just 600,000 providing the Council Tax base, the NYCCC’s budget is being stretched further and wider.
So where does this leave us?
Harrogate County Councillor Don Mackenzie, executive member for Highways, certainly knows more than most.
His thinking on the pothole problem is very interesting.
said: “The principal causes of deterioration of our highways are wear and tear by traffic, and damage caused by ice and ingress of water into the road structure.
“The county has a full programme of “surface dressing” which is a very quick and economical method of sealing roads which are still in good condition which involves the application of a bituminous liquid into which stone chippings are scattered.
“Badly potholed roads need more fundamental and expensive work doing to them. I gave the example of the cost of doing just one road in town - Hookstone Chase - at a cost of over £600,000.
“The basic problem we have in Harrogate is the very high volumes of traffic using our roads. Our main roads - Leeds, Skipton, Wetherby - have been properly repaired quite recently and are in satisfactory condition.
“It is the estate and more minor roads, constructed and engineered to lower standards than the A roads, which are suffering. You quoted Otley Road in your recent newspaper article as being particularly bad.
“There are indeed some very bad patches on this road which is suffering from very high levels of traffic, partly caused by the businesses and schools nearby.
“The worst include potholes on Harlow Hill. These were filled following your report.
“This is not, however, the time to be scheduling a complete resurfacing for that road since the area will be seeing a lot of new residential construction work following recent planning permissions.
“Although we will never reach the position where every road is in top condition, I am confident that we will see improvements.
“One of the possible objectives of a new Harrogate Relief Road would be to ease the pressure on our existing road network which has remained very much as it was in the middle of last century. I recognise, too, the role which sustainable and public transport has to play in reducing the damage caused by increasing volumes of traffic on our roads. NYCC will continue to support both.”