Council leaders in North Yorkshire are preparing to take legal action against Highways England over the £7.8m cost of carrying out urgently-needed repairs to a “substandard” bypass.
North Yorkshire County Council says it has been left with no choice but to sue the government agency after it refused to contribute to the bill for reconstructing the A63 Selby bypass.
We are very frustrated to find ourselves in a position where we have no choice, for the sake of the county’s taxpayers, but to take direct legal action to recover £7m.on Mackenzie, North Yorkshire County Council’s Executive Member for Highways
The 6.1 mile long single carriageway bypass to the south of the town officially opened in June 2004, after being built the previous year by Highways England, formerly the Highways Agency.
But, according to the council, shortly after being transferred back to its control in 2009, it soon started to “deteriorate badly and was the subject of regular complaints from local residents, businesses and road users”.
The county council says it was forced to carry out extra inspections and repairs to keep the road safe, but an investigation found “fundamental problems with the road structure and the lower layers of its construction”.
In a statement issued today, the authority said “it became obvious that urgently needed permanent repairs would be both lengthy and costly”, and that officials started talks about who was responsible for paying for the work.
Over three phases starting in 2015, the council’s contractors carried out structural repairs and resurfaced the whole length of the bypass, at a cost of £7.8 million. It says Highways England initially suggested it might be able to contribute £2.89m towards the cost, a total the authority argued was far too low, but now says it can contribute nothing towards the bill.
Don Mackenzie, North Yorkshire County Council’s Executive Member for Highways, said: “We are very frustrated to find ourselves in a position where we have no choice, for the sake of the county’s taxpayers, but to take direct legal action to recover £7m.
“This is most of the cost that resulted from the substandard construction of the bypass when it was first built.
“We do not want to see significant amounts of public money being spent on legal fees, but as it stands the under-investment and substandard work funded from central government has directly resulted in huge financial expenditure on the part of North Yorkshire taxpayers and this may have adverse consequences on funding of future work on our highways.”
“It means we will have to fund the £7m shortfall from future North Yorkshire highway maintenance funds.”
Selby MP Nigel Adams backed the stance taken by the council, saying he had written to Transport Minister Jesse Norman about the issue. He said: “I think it is poor form by Highways England. If an agreement has been made it should be honoured.”
A Highways England spokeswoman said: “We are aware of North Yorkshire County Council’s intentions to pursue legal action regarding the A63 Selby bypass. We will be following the necessary legal proceedings in this matter.”