Home Page Local roads are likely to be a bumpy ride for Santa 04/12/09

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Matthew Hancock
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Hart of the Matter

As Christmas comes galloping towards us again I notice I can tick off one of the items on my list to Santa before Iíve even sent it.

Suffolk County Council highways department is at last mending the heavily potholed little stretch of road around the junction of Lordscroft Lane and Swan Lane.

I was going to suggest that Santa tried skimming along there without either Rudolf breaking his leg or the whole sack of presents disgorging itself into the Stour Brook.

But it isnít the only place in the town where you will find potholes. The minor roads are pitted with them everywhere you look Ė and that is before we get into winter proper, if it ever comes.

It wonít take much in the way of frozen puddles to expand these potholes into great big craters. Luckily highways did fill the yawning chasm which had opened up at the bottom of Mill Road a few weeks ago, which was threatening to distort any driveshaft.

Letís hope they will be filling in the cavities as fast as they can go before Christmas. If not, we may very well be like guests at Bette Davisí dinner party Ė in for a bumpy ride.

And the annoying thing is that the county council will only even consider compensation if you can identify a particular hole of a particular depth which did the damage.

I drive around the town quite a lot one way and another and it canít be doing my vehicle any good, even if I manage to miss the worst ones.

It does help to know where they are, so I have started taking pictures of some of them with my little camera and sticking them on this site as a warning to others. If you come across any nasty ones, you could snap it and send the picture to me and Iíll add it on to the list.

I donít necessarily want to delve into the reasons why the roads have got into this poor condition, because there is probably politics involved and nobody really wants to know anything about that at the moment.

But I did think there was an interesting piece of information which came out recently, which suggested the county council is having to spend most of the money it has earmarked for road repairs in Haverhill on the town centre, straightening up wobbly paving stones caused by people who insist on parking on them.

This seemed quite plausible on first impression, because I do find it irritating that people wonít even walk the tiniest distance, but have to clutter up the street with their vast vehicles. I admit to being guilty myself very occasionally when I am particularly pressed for time, but not everyone can be in such a hurry all the time, surely?

However, when you think it through, the town centre is now what is termed Ďshared spaceí. That means shared between vehicles and pedestrians. The kerbs have been removed, along with a lot of street clutter, so the implication is that if pedestrians can walk in the street, vehicles can drive on the pavement.

Itís a nice idea, and looks very pleasing, but if itís going to cost a lot more in maintenance, perhaps someone needs to budget for that and not just decide that it means we canít have the residential and link roads in the town made up any more.

Whether because of global warming, or just in the ordinary course of events, we seem to be experiencing unusually heavy rain from time to time nowadays.

I am not a civil engineer, but my guess is that, once a little hole has appeared in the surface of a road, a really heavy downpour which leads to a spate almost across the road is far more damaging than the usual gentle trickle.

It is obvious that we are going to get quite a few of these this winter, even if itís a mild one, so wouldnít you think someone might have calculated the likely cost of that and made provision?

Of course, there are a lot of calls on the already stretched public finances at present. Whatever happens, we can be pretty sure that taxes, both direct and indirect, are going to rise appreciably in the near future.

Until only just over 100 years ago, the roads had to be kept up by the people who lived near them, which was a bit tough on the residents of places like Eaton Socon on the Great North Road, where it must have been like painting the Forth Bridge.

But nowadays, one wonders if it might not be a more efficient system if responsibility, at least for minor roads, was devolved to local communities.

David Hart
David Hart revives his personal take on the week in Haverhill, covering everything from major town developments to what we do with our rubbish.
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