Plea for Government funding to fix roads damaged by drought

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Hundreds of miles of Cambridgeshire’s roads have been damaged by drought – running up a £9.9 million repair bill.

A bid has now been made to the Government for emergency funding to fix problems across the county, including cracking, subsidence, and potholes.

Some 257 of the 2,698 miles of highway looked after by the county council has been affected, and while Fen areas have been worst affected, routes as far south as Wimpole, Cambridge and Newton have also been hit.

Cllr Steve Criswell, the cabinet member for community infrastructure, said: “The state of some roads in Cambridgeshire is causing us real concern.

“The persistent drought means the soil shrinks under the road surface which cracks and becomes uneven, making the road less safe for all users.

“The scale of the damage is beyond anything which can be funded locally if we are to continue to meet all the other demands on our highway maintenance and improvement budget and I am hopeful that the Government will recognise the scale of the drought which has had such an impact on the highway network not just in Cambridgeshire, but across the whole of the region.”

Twenty-one miles of A roads, 149 miles of B and C roads, and 94 miles of unclassified highways have been damaged in the county, with drivers being limited to 20mph on routes such as Westmoor Common in Little Downham because of depressions.

The most severe defects are being fixed, while others are being temporarily repaired or surrounded by warning signs.

Even though the council has allocated £90 million of extra cash for maintenance over five years, the bid for funding warns that the extent of the drought damage means the overall condition of the network will “continue to decline” and that “many routes will remain in a state of disrepair for many years to come”.

Cambridgeshire’s £9.9 million bid is expected to be accompanied by requests from Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Peterborough councils.

Cllr Criswell said: “We are in a similar situation to our neighbouring authorities and feel that taking a common approach to the identification of the worst roads puts us in a stronger position to bid for additional money to help tackle this exceptional problem.”

Last week the county council agreed to send instructions on reducing water usage to all of its buildings.

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