Floods or a bad winter could be fatal to the minor roads leaving many unusable

Swathes of Britain’s local road network could become unusable if this year brings more flooding or another severe winter, highways bosses are warning.

That’s bad news if you like to spend your time on the smallest and prettiest parts of our road network. As you’ve likely already noticed, many of our smallest back roads and byways are, to use a highways engineering technical term, knackered.

According to the Local Government Association, whose members are responsible for nine out of every ten miles of road in the UK, last year council highways teams fixed 2.2 million potholes, 500,000 more than the year before. However, despite these efforts the backlog of repairs is growing longer, now estimated at £10.5 billion with one-in-five roads classed as being in ‘poor condition’.

The LGA blames “decades of underinvestment from government” plus recent freezing weather and flooding which has caused an estimated £1 billion-worth of damage. Further severe weather could now lead to a tipping point in many areas where roads will become so damaged they will have to close, the organisation warns.

The LGA has written to Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, asking him to provide greater capital funding for road maintenance to turn around the decline.

As well as boosting jobs and growth, the LGA points out that laying better road surfaces in the first place makes economic sense. Reactive repairs are 20 times more expensive than laying a good quality surface resistant to flood and ice damage, it says.

Cllr Peter Box, Chair of the LGA’s Economy and Transport Board, said: “The case for proper funding to resurface our roads is a no-brainer. The short-termist approach of successive governments of underfunding local road maintenance, coupled with severe weather over recent years, has taken its toll. Now we’re facing unprecedented budget cuts things are only getting worse.”

The LGA claims that local councils are nevertheless striving to repair and maintain the roads and to fix potholes and other damage before its reported.

The LGA cites the work of Kent County Council which fixed more than 2,000 potholes during February and now claims to fix a pothole once it’s been identified in an average of 14 days, down from 25 days in 2011.

At the end of January Croydon Council announced a new £100,000 winter pothole fund to support work to repair potholes caused by the snow and ice. Highways teams inspected the borough’s 2,500 roads to locate and fill in any new potholes.

Cyclists (and our bikes) are particularly vulnerable to the dangers posed by potholed roads. For the last few years the CTC has been running the Fill That Hole campaign asking cyclists to notify councils about potholes they spot while out riding, particularly those that could be dangerous. 

If you spot a hole while out on your bike cut along to www.fillthathole.org.uk and report it.

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.