'They're putting lives at risk': Northamptonshire campaigner could take county council to court over state of roads

Mark Morrell, aka Mr Pothole
Mark Morrell, aka Mr Pothole

A Northamptonshire pothole campaigner has promised to take the county council to task - and possibly court - over its failure to maintain roads.

Today's revised county council budget recommendations have proposed cuts of £295,000 for 2018/19 and 2019/20 to highways maintenance which would result in changes to repairs and inspections of roads.

The authority recognises that this could place it outside national guidance, at risk of legal challenge and unable to carry out significant repairs in a timely manner.

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"I'm going to issue Northamptonshire Highways with a Section 56 notice for failing to maintain our roads," said Mark Morrell, aka Mr Pothole, who plans to do so on National Pothole Day on March 8.

"They have a legal responsibility to maintain the roads.

"They're currently not meeting their legal obligations, and they're putting lives at risk."

Section 56 of the Highways Act 1980 enables any member of the public to demand a highway authority to restore the surface of a road or bridge if it is "out of repair".

The procedure then gives the authority six months to carry out the repair.

If it fails to do so in time the member of the public can apply to the magistrates' court for an order to force it to do so.

The council's highways maintenance contractor, KierWSP, has also hinted at legal action after it advised the authority any further cuts pose a significant risk "from a professional perspective".

KierWSP has formally notified the authority that, because of the Section 114 notice preventing further council expenditure, the current situation could give rise to a "compensation event" in line with their contract.

NCC said the Department for Transport's pothole grant would help mitigate the budget proposal, but Mr Morrell doesn't think it will help the resolve the state of the county's roads.

According to Mr Pothole, Northampton road maintenance has over £300 million in backlog, dwarfing the £700,000 Government grant given to the county.

"It's peeing in the sea," he said.