A patchy problem on our weather-beaten road system

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problem potholes on the city’s road have been driving motorists round the bend for years.

In the past five years, Leeds 
City Council has spent nearly £124m on repairing crumbling roads and received reports of more than 50,900 potholes during that time.

With weather conditions worsening and cash-strapped council belts-tightening, it 
seems the problem could be here to stay.

The weather plays a huge part in the state of the roads, with the effects of sun, rain and frost causing tarmac to contract and expand, weakenening the road structure and creating potholes.

The recent long, drawn-out winter meant that Leeds City Council received 12,000 reports of potholes in just one year.

In a bid to try to combat the impact of the winter weather, the council has earmarked an extra £1.5m to help reduce the number of potholes.

The extra funding has come from cash diverted from funding reserved for road refurbishments and will go towards repairing some of the city’s busiest roads. Work has already begun on the project and will continue throughout the summer.

As well as this additional pot of money, Leeds City Council also has an annual budget of £1.1m to cover the costs of reactive repairs to the roads.

While the majority of this goes towards repairing potholes, it is also used to resolve other road repairing issues. On top of that, there’s an additional £2.3m to carry out patching (permanent) repairs.

But with thousands of potholes reported to the council every year, which areas do they tackle first?

A Leeds City Council spokeswoman says: “Potholes come in all shapes and sizes and our aim in repairing them is to try and remove the danger that potholes can present to the public.

“Our highways inspectors identify potholes based on specific criteria. A defect greater than 40mm in the road or 20mm on the footpath would be identified as requiring attention. Where the identified defects are in the wheel paths on roads or in busy areas with a high footfall, it is likely that we would classify the defects as Category 1.

“We would then attempt to repair those defects by the end of the next working day. Defects in less critical locations we would classify as Category 2 and repair them within 28 days.”

Potholes are repaired by “patching”, which is where new tarmac is used to fill the hole.

The cost of attending a pothole for repair is roughly £47, although when there is more in one place, the charge remains the same.

As well as weathering, there are a number of other reasons why potholes occur. Heavy vehicles such as buses and lorries can put the road surface under stress because of their weight. Then there is the damage caused by gas, electricity and other utility companies who often need to dig up roads to make repairs. Although their work is often essential, it can weaken the structure of the road and increase the risk of potholes forming.

Over the past five years highways bosses have forked out more than £620,000 in damages caused by potholes in Leeds. Since 2010, more than 1,670 compensation claims relating to potholes have been submitted to the council.

Last year, around 355 claims were made by drivers for personal injury settlements or repairs to their cars because of incidents involving potholes.

One Leeds resident has taken the pothole situation into his own hands and come up with an idea to help fill the gap. Former Roundhay councillor Matthew Lobley has created a revolutionary pothole repair system called Jigsaw. He is now looking for investment in the project so that he can work on the device, which he believes could solve the problem of potholes on roads across the country.

Mr Lobley, who represented Roundhay on Leeds City Council between 2003 and 2012, says: “It is such a simple and elegant solution. We mill the pothole into a larger lozenge-shaped recess with a flat base and sides, add a sealant and put in a pre-formed tarmac block of exactly the same shape.

“We call it the Jigsaw system because it is like putting the final piece in a jigsaw puzzle. It’s affordable like a temporary repair, but long lasting.”

juliette.bains@ypn.co.uk

If you want to report potholes and road defects online, you can use the ‘report a highways problem’ form on the Leeds City Council website.

Alternatively, potholes and other road defects can be reported by calling 0113 222 4407 or e-mailing highways@leeds.gov.uk