Overview and Scrutiny Panel Agenda Item 7iii 26 April 2006 Road and Footpath Review ______________________________________________________________________________ 1. Introduction The road and footpath review was originally selected as a review topic to address concerns Councillor Massie had in relation to the lack of maintenance to the roads and footpaths in the Borough. Councillor Massie wanted the Council to investigate these problems and to establish who had which responsibilities to arrange maintenance and repair. Findings and recommendations of this review were given at the Overview and Scrutiny Chairs Briefing on Wednesday 1st March 2006. Part of the conclusion from this review was to establish a working group with both officers from Northamptonshire County Council and Corby Borough Council to join forces and to determine both maintenance programme and budget availability. 2. Background • The working group consisted of Councillor Massie as the sponsoring Member, County Councillor Mark Bullock and officers Ian Tattersall (CBC), Geoff Emmins (NCC) and Bev Wilson (CBC). • An initial meeting was held on Friday 31st March 2006 in which the project brief was established. The review was scheduled to last several weeks. The time frame for this was dictated by the fact that both road and footpath inspection documents were needed to be compared with ‘walkabout’ inspections that Councillor Bullock had done in the past. • The main objectives of the review were: 1) Does Northamptonshire County Council have a maintenance programme? 2) Does Northamptonshire County Council have a budget? 3. Findings of the Review Inspections One of the findings from this review was that Northamptonshire County Council has an extensive maintenance programme, which is constantly being updated as and when faults are identified. The County Council’s primary responsibility is to keep the highway in a safe condition and this is largely achieved through regular inspections and prompt attention to any defects which cause a danger to users of the highway. This responsibility encompasses a range of works from cyclical maintenance such as grass cutting and tree maintenance, street lighting to structural maintenance of roads and footways and of structures on 4000km of roads and 3800km of footway (pavement). All maintenance works except some cyclical works such as grass cutting are undertaken on a priority basis to reflect relative need countywide based on the results of a number of condition surveys. All highways in the county receive regular planned inspections, and any dangerous defects identified are dealt with within 24 hours, and other minor defects are dealt with on a planned basis. If a length of road or footway warrants more major work then it is assessed for inclusion in the programmes of schemes which are undertaken each year, The potential schemes which have been assessed are ranked against each other on a countywide basis for inclusion in the programmes. In 2006/07 the County Council has a total budget of about £11 million for road and footway schemes. There are many types of inspection carried out on roads and pavements, but the most important is the Safety inspection which is carried out at various frequencies depending on the status of the road or pavement, varying between monthly on all A-roads and annually on the lowest category of roads. The surveys identify a wide range of defects which are set out in the County Council’s Highway Network Management Plan, which also allows for the speed of response to correct them to be related to the hazard that they cause. In addition all roads receive a more detailed Service inspection. This is carried out annually in parishes and where possible is staggered by six months from the Safety inspections so that every parish is visited at least once every six months. Service inspections of A-roads are carried out on a route rather than parish basis. All roads also receive other, more specialised surveys, including: ad hoc visits to sites in response to reports of particular problems. structural condition (at various frequencies), skidding resistance (A-roads only, on a 2-year cycle), street lighting (at various frequencies depending on the aspect being surveyed) , and Special visual inspections The special visual inspections are carried out all roads and some footways to meet the government’s requirements for measuring and reporting BVPIs. This survey is concerned with the structural condition of the road or footway as assessed visually. They are standard surveys carried out nationwide to standards and rules set by the DfT. Until recently they were undertaken by inspectors on foot, but now have been superseded by a machine survey carried out at normal traffic speed. Scheme identification On the basis of the various inspections and surveys, sites are identified as potential schemes. They are assessed and ranked against each other on the basis of need countywide, for inclusion in programmes of works. The size of the programmes is limited by the budgets available. With regard to the maintenance of the roads and footpaths within the Borough, this is part of the overall countywide maintenance programmes drawn up yearly by Atkins and reported to NCC. Other towns/villages within the County may have roads or footways in worse condition than Corby but the intention is always to ensure that there is some money spent in every District or Borough every year. Routine maintenance Routine maintenance to deal with minor defects is carried out on roads/footpaths as and when required. Works are carried out following inspections and in response to reports received from various sources. The general public can contact NCC in various ways to report faults on the highway. The preferred method is through the Street Doctor service either via the website or by telephone. Geoff Emmins remarked that the general public did sometimes get confused with regard to the Street Doctor – this is a method to make NCC aware of defects. It is not a method of ensuring repairs will be carried out. The budget for maintenance is limited, and priority is given to funding rectification of safety related defects. Thus for footways in particular, the most important defects are: Trips and potholes > 20mm Rocking slabs Missing or loose kerbs And for roads: Potholes greater than 100mm deep Missing ironwork Once safety defects have been rectified, all other defects are treated within available budgets on a priority basis reflecting the scale, nature and location of the defect and the hazard it creates. The County Council is always seeking to improve efficiency and quality of its maintenance work. For example there is a new system which Atkins are currently trialling which will make the filling of potholes easier and more ‘environmentally friendly’. This new system heats the existing road surface and enables a repair to be carried out which reuses the existing material and does not leave a joint in the road surface. Very little new material needs to be brought on to site, and none needs to be taken away. However, Councillor Bullock has raised his concerns with regard to the inspection procedures that are currently in existence in respect that he doesn’t feel that the Borough of Corby is inspected thoroughly enough. He has requested that NCC provide us with Atkins’s last year’s inspection reports so that Councillor Bullock can compare NCC’s reports with his ‘Walkabout’ report as he feels that NCC’s report does not match up with his records. Councillor Bullock has also requested that NCC look into some of the Borough’s main roads and re-evaluate their category status. Roads such as Beanfield Avenue are currently classed as a minor road and he feels that this road should be classed in a higher category, due to the fact of the high traffic levels. Funding Northamptonshire County Council funds the road and footpath maintenance in two ways – they have a Revenue budget (2006-2007) of approximately £15 million and a Capital budget of approximately £11 million (2006-2007). This money is allocated and spent Countywide. We were informed that in this year’s budget NCC have allocated an extra £0.5 million in the Revenue Budget, and current plans are that this will increase by £7.5 million over the following 3 years. Service delivery Also at the meeting Geoff Emmins (NCC) mentioned the fact that the current Atkins contract was coming to an end in September 2006 but it would be extended by another 8-10 months to enable a new contract and tender to be organised. The plan is that the new contract could be split into smaller units to enable more competition in tendering. 4. Conclusion The condition of roads and footpaths with in the Borough of Corby is still under review, however since the joint team working has been developed there is a clearer picture being built with regard to how NCC prioritise their maintenance programme and as to what defects are classified as priority. Should any recommendations be adopted that have been put forward in both this report and the previous report then the maintenance of both roads and footpaths with in the Borough will be increased over time and Corby Borough Council will have an established register of whom is responsible for which road and footpath within the Borough, which would enable a more effective and efficient maintenance service and programme. 5. Recommendations 1. To compare Atkins inspection reports to Councillor Mark Bullocks ‘Walkabout’ inspection reports. This would then provide Corby Borough Council with knowledge of how reliable the annual Atkins inspections are. 2. Councillor Massie has also requested that we keep the joint working team live, to enable both parties to discuss this year’s maintenance programme for the Borough and for CBC to have an input as to which roads and footpaths should receive attention. 3. It is also recommended that we request from NCC what percentage of last year’s budget was spent in the Borough and also what percentage of this year’s budget has been set aside for maintenance within the Borough.