42.1. Mark Stevens, Director of Transport Highways at Suffolk County Council, provided a presentation to the Committee on road maintenance within Ipswich.
42.2. The benefit of concrete roads was that they were durable, lasted longer and required less maintenance. Concrete was resistant to fuel spillage and had less of an environmental impact when compared to asphalt roads. Some negatives included the initial construction costs, the cost of major maintenance and noise.
42.3. Mr Stevens advised that many concrete roads across England had a top layer of asphalt to reduce noise as much as possible whilst still retaining skid resistance. Over time, the asphalt would start to become worn, however the key part of maintaining concrete roads was to ensure that the ‘joints’ were intact.
42.4. Prior to the meeting, Councillor C Smart had submitted some pictures of roads that presented a number of issues such as grass breaks, differential settlement and peeling asphalt. With regards to what maintenance work would be required Mr Stevens confirmed that only the joints would be considered as there were no other indications of safety hazards to vehicle traffic.
42.5. Mr Stevens confirmed that Central Government had requested that all Local Authorities consider risk and preventative maintenance rather than ‘active’ maintenance. A new Code of Conduct had been agreed and this introduced the issue about risk and how roads could be maintained forming part of SCC’s Highways Operation Plan for potholes. The County Council had a prioritisation process in place for all the busier ‘A’ roads through to local roads and cul-de-sacs. With regards to minimum intervention, if a pothole measured 25mm deep then maintenance would be considered if this was on a busy “A” road however, a local road required a minimum of 50mm before intervention. For example, if a pothole was reported as 40mm deep, a Local Authority would only be required to investigate the area. The introduction of the Highways Operational Plan had allowed maintenance to become more controlled, consistent and provided a more cost effective service.
42.6. Following funding from Suffolk County Council towards the highways budget, a large amount of re-surfacing had been undertaken that had benefited the County overall. Previously 5% of “A” roads required repair and since this, the number had fallen to 2%, ‘B’ roads had fallen from 10% to 4.2% and ‘C’ roads had fallen from 10% to 7%. Mr Stevens advised that if the road network condition was managed this would mean less money would be spent on reactive maintenance.
42.7. Mr Stevens confirmed that funding continued to be a key issue and since 2010 there had been a 33% drop in the revenue maintenance fund and by 2018 there would be 38% less. The Capital programme funding would also reduce by approximately 20% than the previous year and this was reflected in the preventative approach that SCC was required to take with regards to surfacing roads within the County.
42.8. Mr Stevens detailed the number of options available to the County Council with regards to the action that could be taken toward maintaining the roads. Of the four options presented, the only viable option was to take no action except continuing to ensure all roads were safe and considering any concerns that met the criteria in the Highway Maintenance Operational plan. This would have no cost implications on the County Council.
42.9. Other options considered included the repair of existing joints, investment in the removal of the asphalt overlay, or re-surfacing every road in Suffolk. However, each of these options would involve vast costs.
42.10. Mr Stevens confirmed that other maintenance challenges facing the Council included disrepair to bridges and obscured road signs caused by overgrown vegetation. However, because this was not considered a safety issue and therefore would not be a priority, work would not be undertaken at this time.
42.11. Councillor C Smart advised that the County Council outsourced a contractor to assess Ipswich’s concrete roads and the report by AECOM dated February 2010 found that many roads in Ipswich, and Chantry, required improvement. He asked why there had not been a programme of replacement of the concrete roads in Chantry in the years since the survey had been carried out. Mr Stevens explained that there would not be enough funding to replace the concrete and that only concerns around the joints would be considered further.
42.12. Councillor C Smart explained that the asphalt overlay was causing concern to residents and asked if the depth did not meet the criteria. Mr Stevens confirmed that the aesthetic of roads would not be considered a concern.
42.13. Councillor C Smart asked how money for repairs was distributed through the county and how Chantry compared with other county divisions. Mr Stevens confirmed that funding was not divided on a geographical basis following the approach Central Government required local authorities to follow. All work would be prioritised.
42.14. Councillor C Smart asked if any of the roads he had highlighted would be covered in the work programme in 2018/19. Mr Stevens confirmed that although the asphalt layer was shallow, the concrete underneath the roads highlighted by Councillor C Smart had been in good condition. With the level of funding available it would be highly unlikely that the roads would be resurfaced.
42.15. Councillor P Smart commented that the differential settlements in the roads would be hazardous to cyclists. Mr Stevens explained that although this was a challenge, it would cost £13m to resurface all the asphalt in Ipswich.
42.16. Councillor Hall asked why asphalt was used to repair concrete roads when it would not last. Mr Stevens advised that available funds had to be stretched as much as possible and asphalt was significantly cheaper to provide.
42.17. A resident commented on issues with potholes on Robin drive and advised that this could be dangerous for motor scooters or cyclists. He asked if the County Council’s Leader was aware of what had been presented tonight. County Councillor West responded that the Leader was aware of the concerns residents had around roads, however there were financial pressures on all of the important services that Suffolk County Council provided.
42.18. The resident advised that he had complained regarding a dip in Hawthorne Drive and the problem was still unresolved. He also raised concern around the road signs on the A14 Copdock and the safety implications that this could cause. Mr Stevens advised that ideally obscured roads signs would be dealt with however, because this was a high speed road an experienced team would be required to undertake the works and this would cost thousands of pounds. Councillor West agreed to speak with the resident after the meeting.
42.19. A resident commented on the safety that road signs provided and that a casual view should not be taken. Mr Stevens advised that he received a number of complaints daily with regards to obscured road signs and that a balance was required between what would be prioritised. There was legislation and a number of processes that had to be followed with regard to removing foliage on the signs.
42.20. A resident commented that road tax had previously been collected and this had been put towards funding for roads. Mr Stevens confirmed that the government received fuel tax and vehicle excise duty and it was their decision where this would be distributed.
42.21. County Councillor Armitage asked if the locality highway budget could be removed from Suffolk County Councillors and added to the main budget. Mr Stevens responded that this would be a decision for County Councillors to make.
42.22. Councillor Macartney asked if Utility Companies were penalised when roads had not been repaired correctly after work had been undertaken. Mr Stevens advised that there was in excess of a million pounds received because of this every year. It was required that all utility reinstatements must be in sound condition after two years of the road surface being opened up. It was hoped that the Council would soon work with the utilities companies to do any repairs themselves.
42.23. Councillor Macartney asked if there was any significance in the condition of Park Road and the road outside of Ipswich School to the roads in Sheldrake Drive. Councillor West advised that Ipswich School would not be given any preference however, Park Road had been resurfaced recently.