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Potholes, potholes, potholes - an open letter

Published: 16 January 2024

An open letter regarding potholes around the county from Councillor Charlotte Cupit, Cabinet Member - Highways Assets and Transport and Julian Gould - Director of Highways.

Dear residents,

On seeing this, we can hear the immediate response: don’t write about it, just fill them! We do agree but we also wanted to acknowledge the problem.

We’re stating the obvious to say there’s been a massive increase in potholes to what we would usually see. We’re sorry for this. Whilst we always prepare for winter, the last few months really have thrown exceptional things at us. Many communities sadly are still dealing with the destruction of October and Babet’s floods (with a month of rain in a single day), November’s freeze and snow, and December’s double the usual rainfall. You’re right though when you say this recent damage isn’t the only problem: this has been decades in the making with aging highways and reducing investment comparatively.

But we’re not going to fluff or filibuster with reams of stats or politics on what we’re facing. We’re filling hundreds of potholes each day and have extra teams on. It doesn’t matter though how many potholes we’re filling if the one outside your house or on your journey is still there. You, rightly, don’t care about the 90,000 we filled last year, just the ones that are there now. We’re also not doing comparisons with other counties. What matters is Derbyshire.

So, we’re further bumping up resources to deal with the current backlog and changing from how we usually do things to focus on wider fixes where we can. We’ve also started a resurfacing patch programme of an extra 250 sites where we have pothole hotspots.

We’ll post further updates over the next few weeks on this but, crucially, we want you to see it on the roads in action. We know that’s what will make the difference.

Just to touch on a few further points, we can’t always resurface every road immediately. All the budget and resources still wouldn’t make that possible given how far we cover.

Sometimes the weather or underlying road problems also means a repair won’t last. So we have to do temporary repairs to try to make things safe. But we do try to do permanent repairs or resurfacing where we can.

Likewise, we’re reviewing the materials and methods we use so we can make sure we’re using the most efficient and longest lasting solutions.

Many also ask why one road has received works over another which looks worse. We sometimes have to intervene at the point we do so it protects and prolongs the life of the road at a lower cost. This then means we can do more and focus on more places.

We’re also making the case nationally for more investment - this is starting to filter through, which is what means we can do the above, but we will keep working together with others on this.

As a final but no less important note, we’re seeing an increase in abuse towards our staff who are out working on the network. We understand the frustration, and share it, but hope people don’t take it out on those teams. In many cases they’re working round the clock in often rubbish weather. Many are stepping into roles they don’t usually do to help. They’re doing the best they can so, genuinely, thank you to them.

We don’t doubt this letter will get criticism. It probably would’ve been easier not to do it when we read the comments back. But please take this for what it is: acknowledging the challenges and problems, and being open in what we’re doing. We’re human, we use our roads too and we want to sort this.

We’ll be out too with the teams when we can. We know actions speak louder than words so please be assured that’s what we’re doing.

Yours faithfully,

Cllr Charlotte Cupit - Cabinet Member for Highways Assets and Transport

Julian Gould - Director of Highways