Saturday, 2 July 2011

"Nobody's child, I'm nobody's child"

In 2003 The Guardian  reported that an elderly lady in Sunderland who had recently died had not been able to use her own street for 20 years. Her street was a dirt track with no street lighting, no drainage and no road surfacing. As her eyesight deteriorated with age her street became a no go area. She lived on an unadopted road.

The article went on to highlight the problem of unadopted roads and streets in Sunderland. These are roads for which local councils have no legal duty to maintain and, having limited resources, generally refuse to do so. If local residents want these roads adopted and maintained by their council,  local authorities have usually required residents to pay for the necessary improvements before they will take responsibility for their maintenance.This is underlined by the 1980 Highways Act which makes local residents the "street managers" of their orphan highways. The cost of doing this is prohibitive for local residents and therefore it simply does not happen. Nationally the Government has estimated that the cost of bringing all unadopted roads to the required standard would be £3 billion. 

In Liverpool in 2005 the then Liberal Democrat Cabinet Member brought a report to the Regeneration Select Committee which, the Liverpool Echo reported, revealed that, because of the costs involved, " hundreds of miles of streets and roadways in Liverpool may never be repaired" and that 120 streets legally designated as unadopted "could never be free of potholes and cracks."

Ullet Road entrance to Sefton Park
In Liverpool the most famous of these unadopted roads are the roads round Sefton Park. Aigburth Drive, Croxteth Drive, Greenbank Drive and others have had cosmetic work done on them in the past but are crumbling so fast that they are rapidly becoming unusable. It has been estimated the cost of bringing the roads around the park up to adoptable standards would be £7 million pounds. When one considers that the local authority has £3 million in total to spend on all currently adopted roads in the whole of the city one seems to be looking at an insoluble problem.

The problem is exacerbated by some of the roads around the park having become being an integral part of the road network. Aigburth Drive in particular carries thousands of cars per day taking traffic to the city centre eventually via Princes Road. In more gentle times the gentry would have accessed the park in their carriages via the gates to the park and slowly perambulated round the beautiful countryside in the heart of the city. Nowadays heavy traffic and ruinous winters combine to destroy the road surface and together with their unadopted status leave the local authority with an immense headache.

But was the cabinet member in 2005 correct? Were officers who said nothing could be done being realistic or were both lacking in imagination. I believe every problem has a solution- the difficulty is often having the imagination to work out the solution, the ability to "sell" the solution and the determination to see it through.

I believe we now have an opportunity to deliver a solution to the conundrum. It will require politicians, officers and , indeed, the citizens of Liverpool to think in a different way and consider the alternatives of both doing something and, even more, failing to act.

Workmen repairing the worst sections of Croxteth Drive last weekend
In recent weeks a number of actions have been taken to start bringing the roads up to standard. The City Council has filled in the major deep pot holes caused by the recent bad winters and last week, using a combination of resources from local businesses and housing assocations matched by city council resources, the Beirut-like surface of Croxteth Drive was repaired. The number of complaints about the roads around the park has reduced markedly as a result.

This is not the full or final solution to the problem of unadopted roads around Sefton Park. The pot holes will reappear as the level of traffic and further ravages of subsequent winters take effect. A more complete solution is called for. It is that solution that the council will consider over the coming month and which will be further reported on in Regeneration Matters. Somehow we have to get round the limitations of the Highways Act 1980, the lack of resources available to deal with the problem and the historic lack of imagination displayed by politicians and officers alike. I believe a solution is within reach. Will we be able to grasp it?

No comments:

Post a Comment