You know what virtually everyone can agree on? Not world peace or protecting the environment or saving the whales – there are always contrarians or real politikers on the things that really matter. What everyone can agree on is daft little things, at least in the grand scheme of things. You might just find every single person you know has the same opinion on a pressing issue of modern-day life, and it’s one of those things that’s so small, relatively speaking, that it’s almost absurd.

Potholes. Holes in the ground gouged by the winter weather, by roots under the ground, by 3000-kilo vehicles driving over our road surfaces several times a day. Every town, every village, every city in the UK – probably the world – has problems with them to some extent.

Here in Liverpool they are, perhaps, more noticeable than anywhere else. A recent report by a warranty company named some roads in Yorkshire as the worst in the country – but they obviously haven’t seen Liverpool’s unadopted roads. They are so cratered, so pitted that travel is virtually impossible on some of them.

A cursory glance at the people power website reveals a list of problems relating to poorly-maintained roads around South Liverpool, with Aigburth and the Sefton park area the focus of most.

South Liverpool has a number of unadopted roads – roads the council is not obliged to repair that are theoretically the responsibility of local residents – predominantly around Sefton Park and the surrounding area. There is one pothole, on Mossley Hill Drive near Aigburth Vale that is at least a foot deep and about four feet across. At night, in this poorly lit area, it is largely invisible and would mean almost certain damage to any vehicle travelling over it at speed. It’s easy to imagine a driver losing control of a vehicle upon hitting this Marianas trench of a pothole.

And this is why it’s not just motorists who should be concerned about the parlous state of some of South Liverpool’s roads.

We spoke to garage owner Paul Tuffs, of Automatic Automobiles, who told us that pothole-related damage has rocketed in the last year and listed the damage that can be done to a car while in motion and the long-term wear that driving over poor road surfaces can wreak on a car.

“As the road wheel and tyre go down into the pothole then the lower suspension arm can hit the road surface and distort it, while the coil spring can ovetravel, twist and break,” says Paul, who counts disgruntled taxi drivers with knackered suspensions among his more regular customers these days.

“A wishbone suspension arm can be damaged by overtravelling and striking the ground. The inside tyre and tyre rim can also be damaged in the same situation.”

The result is that steering alignment can become thrown out or coil springs or suspension arms can be compromised. More prosaically, hitting a pothole at speed can result in a puncture. Any of these faults will pose serious problems should they occur in a car that is driving at speed, which then puts other road users in danger.

If you think driving over a pothole at speed in a car sounds bad, just imagine what hitting one at 20mph on a pushbike will do for you. A friend of SevenStreets, artist Julian Taylor, did just that; hitting one, coming off his bike at speed, and landing in another. He was relatively undamaged; his bike was not.

“You’re likely to have a flat front tyre, which will probably require replacing the inner tube,” says Jules.

“The rim can easily be damaged and you’ll need to replace that too. In an extreme case the spokes will break then you have a broken front fork. Going over the handlebars you tend to destroy your front brakes too.

All of which supposes that coming off a bike at speed does not lead to serious injury. Motorists, cyclists and pedestrians alike have been killed in pothole-related incidents and some of the specimens on show in South Liverpool, coupled with the council’s reluctance to address the issue, lead us to ponder whether the road will be allowed to degrade until the point when a serious incident results.

We talked to a spokesman at Liverpool city council who told us that unadopted roads around the city are ‘highly unlikely’ to be repaired at the council’s expense, as the city juggles with the fallout of budget cuts.

So residents who live on unadopted roads will have to shell out for their upkeep. But this system, whereby wealthy residents pay for the upkeep of the roads they live in is as outdated as servants quarters and private stables in the back yards.

Some residents on Greenbank Drive and Croxteth Drive – featuring what are undoubtedly the worst potholes in Liverpool following a second harsh winter – have stumped up the cash themselves to have the road repaired.

Resident Jean Niblock told us that work began but was subsequently stopped because the council said it had run out of cash.

“The situation with the potholes is diabolical – it has been for some months now.

“The associations put in money to have the road repaired. [The council] did one section and then stopped. When we, as tenants, asked why the work had stopped they said the money had run out.

“The moneys that we have put it to Liverpool city council are still in abeyance because they’re waiting for legal papers to be signed – at Liverpool City Council!”

With the work seemingly stuck in bureaucratic limbo, the result is that the roads, which loop around Sefton Park Cricket Club and allotments, are a patchwork of semi-repaired tarmac and seem destined to remain so.

Liverpool city council estimate that to repair this one stretch of road, perhaps half a mile in length, would cost a cool million pounds. Plenty of money when cuts to charities, arts groups and auxiliary support groups around the city are hitting hard – and that figure represents almost one sixth of the entire budget the council received from central government to go towards road repairs in this financial year.

Happily the government announced an extra £1m for Liverpool road maintenance and repair in the Budget. Unhappily, the council says it is unable to spend money from maintenance budgets on unadopted roads, which is where the vast majority of the problems lie.

Mooted ideas have pointed to parking meters dotted around Sefton park and the surrounding roads going directly towards road maintenance, or charging more money for events that are staged in the park.

But the lack of funding and the administrative no man’s land where unadopted roads lie has everyone in Liverpool scratching their heads – no-one seems to know how to address the problem.

So the potholes will get worse; cars will be damaged, cyclists will come off their bikes and brows will be furrowed.

Set against budget cuts that will slash money spent not only on the NHS and education, but thousands of charitable and creative organisations too, South Liverpool’s pothole plight is small beer.

To those staring at bills for car or bike maintenance – or nursing injuries – as a direct result, that won’t come as much comfort.

And every time we pass that trench on Mossley Hill Drive and see another driver taken by surprise, veering suddenly at speed to avoid a gouge in the road so deep a small child could lie in it, we wonder how unimportant it would seem if something altogether more serious were to result.

All because of that silly little problem everyone agreed on.

16 Responses to “Hell holes”

  1. Percy Street

    Why should the council maintain unadopted roads? It’s the responsibility of people who live on them to maintain them. There isn’t any point whinging if you choose to live on such a road or use it as a shortcut. No one is being forced to use them and if residents choose not to maintain them – blame them not the council.

  2. The residents don’t have the money to maintain them. The whole theory of unadopted roads was that they were essentially private and maintained by wealthy landowners. People who live on unadopted roads are not likely to be wealthy any more, nor are the roads private.

    In fact, those large houses are likely to split into small flats; many people who live on streets that are unadopted in Liverpool will be on minimum wage or benefits. Many will not own cars. They will receive no rebate on their council tax.

    Mossley Hill Drive and Aigburth Drive are major thoroughfares in Liverpool – they essentially form part of the ring road.

    The matter is not just one for private residents or private drivers. Taxis may not be prepared to travel down unadopted roads that are so poorly maintained that it restricts the access of elderly or disabled people to and from their places of living.

    Finally, as mentioned in the article, poorly maintained roads are not simply an issue of those who live or drive on the roads. Their poor state should bother pedestrians and cyclists alike – who are endangered by them; and by people who might rely on ambulances to quickly navigate roads to attend people who are seriously ill or injured – and might find their routes impeded by not being able to navigate cratered roads like the ones in South Liverpool; like the ones in North Liverpool; like the ones in neighbourhoods of all kinds all around the country.

  3. Nick M

    Driving to the doctors on Greenbank Drive round the park from Queens Drive via Mossley Hill Drive, Aigburth Drive and Croxteth Drive this morning was truly mountainous – that one you mention on Mossley Hill Drive is epic!

  4. Greenbank Drive

    The council is willing to spend money on tarmacking new street signs into the ground in Greenbank Drive that state it is unadopted. They could have put that blob of tarmac to much better use by filling in just one pothole. They clearly number the lamp posts and change lights in them, they send road sweepers down the road, empty the bins, maintain the hedges and mow the grass. The student bus runs down this road. The council is keen for people to use this park, but not keen for people to get to it safely. If one of the St Hilda’s students fell in a pothole and an insurance claim was made, I’m sure that the tenuous claim of unadopted road would be strongly contended. It’s merely a way for the council to shirk their responsibility of maintaining the road. Potholes were filled 18 months ago by the council. Residents need to look into land registry a bit deeper, we should all come together…many of us are tenants of housing associations, not property owners…there must be something we can do…can we arrange a meeting in Sefton Park Community Centre?

  5. mike donnelly

    I wonder how much it cost the council to change all the street signs to ones which have the legend “unadopted” on them?

  6. Funnily enough those signs went up about a week after we spoke to the council – and a few weeks after work commenced and then halted on repairing Greenbank/Croxteth Drive.

  7. Jamie Bowman

    The ‘unadopted’ signs actually went up after pressure on the council from St Michaels Green Party. They made the point that if the council were completely unwilling to mend the roads, they should at least warn motorists that they are unadopted and therefore may be in poor repair.

  8. James

    I don’t think in this climate there’s much fear of the council paying out for something if they don’t have to.

    While some of the roads are so integral to the city network that it’s simply wrong that they’re not adopted, for those other unadopted roads, if residents over time created a communal road maintenance budget that they all contributed to (akin to a service charge in a block of flats), then you wouldn’t need to be rich to be able to afford it. I think it’s that that is missing – some kind of obligation and mechanism for a household to contribute in this way, as at the moment the roads are just in some kind of limbo with neither private nor public spending going on them.

  9. To repair the stretch of road named in the article would cost a million quid. That’s hardly the sort of cash a couple of hundred people could be expected to raise between them and it wouldn’t be a one-off charge either; roads need regular maintenance to prevent them falling into disrepair.

  10. Resident

    The roads around the park need to be repaired because often they are used by unskilled uncaring people fleeing from the cops. Do we have to wait for an innocent person to be hurt by one of these people losing control of their vehicle before some thing is done. I say the roads should be repaired on the grounds of Health and Safety

  11. my car suffered because of a huge pothole in speke. A snapped coil spring whilst driving with children in the car is not good. £100 bill to replace it, so i contacted Liverpool council who told me they would not accept responsibilty or pay for the damage as the road was checked 1 month before my accident and that it was due to the weather. Im sure if everyone refused to pay road tax there would be uproar!

  12. James

    Agreed £1m is too much as a one off, but to be fair £1m / 200 people = £5,000 each. People living in blocks of flats have been hit with bigger sudden bills than that for say a roof replacement.

    Roads maintained over time via a quarterly service charge would mean that the £1m bill level wouldn’t be reached, and also residents paying into this fund would mean that no sudden bills should occur.

    The issue is the same for blocks of flats – those that are poorly managed and don’t put enough aside are the ones that surprise their residents with massive bills, whereas the the ones that are well managed these ‘surprises’ are budgeted for (and less frequent due to better maintenance).

  13. But a sudden bill has occurred. It’s £1m to get that road repaired here and now split between however many people live around there. What’s more the cash required pertains to the road directly outside your property, so if you live in a block of flats you split 50m2 between 100 of you at, what, about 50K? If you’re unlucky enough to live in a big house with three people you split your costs between the three of you.

    Whichever way you look at it it’s absurd and unmanageable and the council’s defence that the roads are unadopted is so outdated is at the same arcane level as ‘shooting a Scotsman at midnight’.

  14. The sickening ammount of taxes we pay in this country and the services we receive are an outrage! Billions given away to other countries by our sickening politicians..yet our roads,schools,hospitals crumble.When i look around at this country(8th richest in the developed world..)i feel ashamed and angry.Make a change at the ballot box..yeah ok.

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