“Stitches in time” would cut bills for highways repairs

Date: Monday 14th May 2018

Sir, County councillor Phil Dew (Herald, 28th April) raised important points about responsibility and liability for road clearance and repair.

It is clearly the responsibility of the county council as highways authority to keep the public roads of Cumbria open and safe. But obviously they cannot maintain a labour force able to clear every local road when we have a sudden and substantial snowfall.

In Switzerland, where we lived for six years, individual householders were required to clear pavements along their frontages. As here, major routes were dealt with very efficiently by public authorities. The lesser roads in the commune (township) where we lived were cleared by farmers under contract to keep specified sections of road open. They were, I believe, provided with blades that fitted their tractors and no doubt (it being Switzerland) those tractors were subject to regular inspection.

Why cannot a similar arrangement be established in Cumbria? Liability issues should not arise if the work was being done under contract to the responsible authority.

Possibly something similar could even be done for potholes. The county council has already engaged local construction firms to repair damaged bridges. If parish councils/meetings knew which firm was responsible in their area they could report damaged roads to both the highways authority and the contractors, who could then be authorised to make repairs. No doubt, as with bridge repairs, the work would be inspected before bills were paid.

The biggest problem I can see is making sure that sufficient money is available for these services. But surely if the highways authority has a formal duty to maintain the Queen’s highway, then they themselves must incur liability if they omit to repair dangerous surfaces? The cost of “stitches in time” must surely be less than the potential cost of damages for negligence. Yours etc,


Fell Beck,