A WET winter, on top of a soggy summer, has created unprecedented numbers of potholes on Dorset roads.

Local councils are fighting a never-ending battle to repair roads that have been damaged by flood water in recent months.

Both Poole and Dorset expect to see the number of potholes escalate this financial year and said the problem is putting pressure on stretched council budgets.

Martin Hill, Dorset County Council’s routine highways maintenance manager, said they spent around £1.2million repairing 12,800 potholes in 2011/12 and the situation had got progressively worse ever since.

“The number of road defects reported so far in 2012/13 has substantially increased, partly due to the excessively wet weather during the past 12 months,” he said.

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“As flood water recedes, it gets under the surface of the carriageway and can cause a lot of problems. Our repair budget is struggling to keep pace with the number of road defects we are dealing with.

“Our aim is to fix the most serious category of pothole within 32 hours.

Less urgent types of pothole are identified for repair within 28 days. We closely monitor our actual repair performance against these timescales and we are repairing 98 per cent of defects on time.”

The Borough of Poole also expects to fill in more potholes this financial year than it did during 2011/12. Between April 1 to December 31, 1,004 potholes have been repaired, compared to 1,029 during the whole of 2011/12.

However, the amount of money it has to spend on carriageway patching has decreased from £606,000 to £324,000 due to a lack of government grants available this year.

A spokesperson for the AA warned that many councils’ efforts to improve the roads would only have a temporary impact.

“Because the councils are just filling in the holes rather than maintaining them road surface, all that happens is that bad weather just opens them up again,” he said.

“The Government has given a grant to local authorities to fill in potholes but unfortunately all we need is a severe winter and it just opens them up again.”

In Bournemouth, the council was only able to provide figures for potholes reported between January and October in 2011 and in 2012.

This shows the number of potholes being reported has reduced from 635 in 2011 to 498 in 2012.

The number of compensation claims for damage allegedly caus-ed by potholes has also decreased.

In 2010/11, 58 claims were made, of which 16 were paid. In 2011/12, 21 were made and three paid and in 2012/13, 16 were made and four paid.

Stuart Best, street service manager, said he believed this reduction was due to their Road Rescue programme, which has seen the council focus resources on filling in potholes and other road repairs for the past three years.

“Maintaining Bournemouth’s roads continues to be a priority for the council,” he said.

“Since 2009, through the coun-cil’s Road Rescue campaign we have invested around £4.8m in to repairing Bournemouth’s roads, including 6,420 pothole repairs, as well as carrying out a number of major resurfacing works.

“This level of investment has helped to maintain Bourne-mouth’s roads for longer and this, we believe, has helped to reduce the numbers of reports of potholes in the borough.”

ANTHONY and June O’Brien, who live in Upper Road, Parkstone, said they had been waiting for repairs to the road for years.

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Mr O’Brien, a former traffic officer, said: “I’ve been living here since April 2003, and my wife has been here a lot longer than that.

“Just before I first arrived, the council said they’d surface it, but it’s never happened. I understand it’s expensive to do, but it’s been years since anything’s been done.”

Mrs O’Brien said: “The council’s excuse was that they wouldn’t do it because of all the lorries travelling up and down to Wyvern Cargo and ANC.

“Since the lorries have gone, it hasn’t been so bad, but I think there will end up being a big accident along here.”

Marje Timbrell, 76, who also lives on Upper Road, said: “I have been here for 50 years – back then, we had to pay to get this road done, and it hasn’t been done since.

“It used to be a rough old road with gravel on it. It’s still dreadful now.”

Nick Hennessy, 61, lives near Longham, and said a series of deep potholes make driving difficult.
“It’s absolutely terrible,” he said.

“They have definitely got worse – I think it must be all this flooding and the frost. When your car hits one of them, it can affect the steering components, and it does get expensive.”

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Self-employed gardener Shaun Foulkes, above, 38, blamed a pothole on Fleets Lane for damaging the suspension on his van.

He lodged a claim for compensation with the Borough of Poole after having to pay more than £200 to repair his van.

But despite submitting the details in August, he has only just been told that his claim had been unsuccessful.

He said: “I wasn’t going fast when I hit it but it was a massive pothole and it broke the suspension on the van. I submitted a claim and kept chasing it and chasing it.

“Eventually I was told they were in the middle of repairing that part of the road at the time so they weren’t going to pay out on it.

“It is annoying because it cost me a lot of money but there is no way I can disprove they knew about the pothole and had it in line for repair.

“It would have been nice to have had a quicker response though and not to have taken so much time and effort.”