Rural roads snubbed as grants shared out, claims councillor

A COUNTY councillor has hit out at plans not to spend a “single penny” of a multi-million pound Government grant on road repairs in Richmondshire.

John Blackie, leader of Richmondshire District Council, says he is speaking out as the county councillor for England’s most sparsely populated County Council division, the Upper Dales.

He says he represents an area of “325 square miles of upland territory, with an extended road network much over 1,000 feet, and rising to very nearly 2,500 feet on the felltop pass routes at Cray/Fleet Moss/Newby Head/Grinton & Redmire Moor/ and last but not least the famous Buttertubs Pass.”

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In an email to the council he said: “It is utterly unbelieveable, and nothing short of a travesty, that not one penny of the £6.6m grant given to North Yorkshire County Counil by central Government to address these very issues is coming to Richmondshire.

“All roads here in the Upper Dales face having to endure hostile winter weather, extremes of temperature variance, plus some of the coldest road surface thermometer readings in the county. All of them have suffered severe damage from the three consecutive harsh winters we have experienced here.

“I know from talking with district councillors elsewhere in Richmondshire, all of whom have recently been through an election, that one of the talking points on the doorstep was the very poor condition of many of the roads here.

“Is it that instructions were issued to allocate funds by the volume of traffic using the roads, which completely overlooks the rural nature of the county, and will eventually reduce the quieter roads that provide the lifelines to small rural communities to an obstacle course along disintegrating road surfaces with deep holes and collapsing edges, consigning residents who live along them to trying to avoid a broken spring each time they venture out?

“I cannot understand why Selby District Council is being overlooked as well. I am very willing to give a whistlestop tour around the Upper Dales to show what appears to have been missed – severely damaged roads in desperate need of the repairs the DfT grant could have funded.

“I am sure county councillor Stuart Parsons would be pleased to come along and show some of the damaged roads in his Richmond division.

“I note there is £2.6m yet to spend. When will we hear about how this sum will be allocated and whether there might be a few bob spare in this significant sum of money for roads in Richmondshire? And Selby?”

A North Yorkshire County Council spokeswoman said: “Although the Government has allocated an additional £6.6m for highway maintenance as a result of winter damage, it should be noted that NYCC will spend approximately £11.4m on damage resulting from winter.

“So far the county council has allocated £2m purely for patch repairs, this money has been distributed pro rata to road length, recognising that all areas have suffered potholing. Richmondshire received approximately £240k from this funding.

“More recently the £6.6m grant from Government has been allocated to schemes across the county. This funding has been targeted at national primary route sites, taking into account usage, road condition and risk.

“Scheme identification and assessment has involved both local and central teams through an objective process to ensure the resources achieve the best outcome for the highway network in the long term. It should be emphasised that there is no political input to this process.

“There is a further £2.6m yet to allocate, this funding is to be targeted at more minor roads and I am aware that there are a number of schemes in this category from Richmondshire that are being assessed and if successful in the objective assessment process will of course be funded.”