Our wonderful roads

IMG_1031(photos courtesy of Helene Buse and Rick Wood. To enlarge, left click once and then left click again for full screen)

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Some of you will have attempted to drive along the road from Easy Bridge to Yardbury Farm and worried about the damage to your vehicles. Others, such as cyclists, runners and riders will have worried for their lives. There is a group of 15 concerned locals who are actively trying to rectify this situation by contacting Colyton Parish Council (County Councillor Sara Randall-Johnson), Devon County Council (Head of Highways David Whitton), our MP Neil Parish and local landowners. The latter have responded quickly and helped by clearing the ditches on their land so that the surface water can drain away.Thank you to Nigel and Frank.

rick2rick6rick9rick10rick11rick12rick13rick14rick15rick16The third visit to the ditch and at last this area is cleared:


So far the response from Highways and Government has been less than helpful: ” Lack of funds – not a priority” being the usual excuse.

Below we have a small section of our correspondence :


On December 23rd 2014, the Department for Transport announced the sum of £6b to be spent on roads from 2015 to 2021 – that is nearly £1b yearly. Devon will receive £220,828,000 over that time – or £37m annually of additional funding for roads, as the Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin said:

“Roads play a significant part in everyday life. Poorly maintained local roads, blighted by potholes, are a menace to all road users, particularly during the festive period as people travel to see family and friends.

It is vital we have good quality roads. This government has already taken strong action by spending £1 billion more on local roads maintenance than was spent in the previous parliament.

The £6 billion funding I am announcing today will put an end to short term fixes and will mean we have committed £10 billion between 2010 and 2021.”



Dear Mr Wood,

I have copied you in to my response to Mr Warr, which explains Devon’s position.

Like you, we are disappointed that there are insufficient capital funds available to meet the maintenance needs of all of Devon’s Highway Network. We will however carry out safety defect repair work or take other steps in extreme circumstances to keep the network safe.

What I mean when I say safety defect repair, it that where possible we will repair potholes that meet the accepted classification of a safety defect pothole i.e. 300mm across and 40mm deep.

Picking up on point 7 in your e mail, you may wish to take a look at how capital maintenance funding for local roads is decided by Government, who provide the capital grant funding to Local Highway Authorities. Please use the following link to access the information:


What you will notice from the DfT explanation is that they assess funding needs based on various factors which reflect the size of the network, e.g. road lengths, number of bridges; size of street lighting stock etc. This provides some comfort on the equitable distribution of the available funding, so, if you accept the basis of the formulae, it is not about one authority doing better than another, it is about meeting their needs.

Local Highway Authorities like Devon, who are committed to the use of sound asset management principles, assess funding needs in a different way. For example, we carry out regular road condition surveys and use this information to calculate what treatments are required to repair road surfaces to bring them up to a good serviceable condition. Our calculations show that for road surfaces alone, we would need £64 million a year in Devon to prevent further deteriorating of the road surface asset. For 2015/16 our allocation from Government is £42.3 million. So you will see that there is a shortfall and we therefore need to priorities our works to get the best overall return for the investment that is made in highway maintenance.

The consequence of the level of funding than is available is inevitably that we are not able to bring all of Devon’s minor roads up to a good serviceable standard and in such circumstances all we can do is carry out safety defect repair works, which leave the affected roads looking in a poor condition but usable with care.

I can assure you that Devon takes every opportunity it can to make its case to Government for more capital funding. Some of our comments have already been taken into account in producing the new funding formula referred to above. We will also be bidding to Government for further funding which they describe at the “Challenge Fund” so that we can try and close the gap between the level of funding we need and the level we receive.


David Whitton

Head of Highways Capital Development and Waste.
From: rick & eleanor wood [mailto:rickandeleanor@tiscali.co.uk]
Sent: 18 December 2014 10:15
To: David Whitton; Phil Norrey
Cc: Councillor Andrew Moulding; Richard Brown – Highways; Mike Brown; Councillor Sara Randall Johnson; PARISH, Neil; Colyton Parish Council
Subject: roads

I am writing to you to express the extreme dissatisfaction amongst many members of the community of Umborne near Colyton, with the absolutely dreadful state of the road from Easy Bridge in Umborne to Yardbury Farm near Colyton. This road (Chapel Knap and Coxley Lane) which is also an important link road from the A35 to the A3052 has been deteriorating rapidly in the last few years to the point where it is now damaging to vehicles of all types and dangerous for cyclists, motorcyclists and horseriders alike. This email is to make you fully aware of this danger so that when an accident does happen, as surely it will, we are able to state that Devon County Council were fully aware of these dangers and chose to nothing about it.

At least 10 households in the community have written to our MP Neil Parish, Mike Brown, Sara Randall-Johnson and Colyton PC about this situation. Some of us have written to the PM and the Department for Transport. All of these people have replied to our letters and emails – apart, that is, from Mike Brown who did not even have the courtesy to acknowledge our correspondence. Surely you have in-service training for members of your team on people skills and public relations? In Shute Parish we are fortunate to have the services of Richard Brown who apart from answering emails, seems to have the drive to get road repairs done to a satisfactory level. Andrew Moulding is also very effective in looking after the interests of local people. Sadly, the road in question is “over the border” in Colyton Parish. At a recent meeting with their PC, they were very supportive and totally understood the problem.

Some important points have emerged over the last few weeks from local people who are looking for answers to a real problem:

1. Two local cyclists who regularly cycle along the lanes around Colyton noticed the extensive repairs to the road linking Colyton to Northleigh – from Streathayne to Farwood Cross. They both said that this road did not require such extensive repairs. There were a few potholes and a little edge of road subsidence. Apparently there were 49 major repairs ( not just pot-hole filling) along this road, the smallest of which was 1m square and the largest the width of the road and about 15metres long. Highways always talk about priorities and lack of funding but compared to our road, it was already in a reasonable state. Both are roads linking Colyton with a village and both are double and single lane roads. One cyclist described our road as ” the worst bit of road I have cycled along in over 30 years of cycling. It is downright dangerous”. Mending a few pot-holes again will not solve the problem.

2. I am informed by the Trustees of Umborne Village Hall that they have lost bookings because of the state of the roads leading to the hall. Would any group from Colyton wish to tackle these obstacles, particularly in the dark?

3. A single mother with two eleven year old children had to ask them to walk 0.6 of a mile, sometimes in the dark and in all weathers, to get to their school bus pick-up point because the bus company would not risk driving their minibus over our road.

4. Several people including myself have had significant repairs to their cars because of this road’s condition. Work on my front suspension cost £280. Garage repair people must be rubbing their hands with glee.

5. The round trip for Umborne people to Colyton and back is about 4 miles. The only safe alternative route for the 40 or so households and of course delivery vehicles, taxis, tourists etc. is up to the A35, along to Taunton Cross and down along the Shute Road via Seaton Junction – a round trip of 10 miles – 6 miles more. For someone working south of the Umborne Valley, this is an extra 30 miles a week – or in my car a gallon petrol – an extra £250 annually in petrol alone to say nothing of wear and tear and damage to our environment.

6. Other alternative routes are either dangerous or impossible to negotiate. Coming from Colyton it is impossible to turn left into Lodge Lane. There is another access track to Lexhayne Mill but the exit onto Shute Road is exceptionally dangerous especially if travelling alone as you cannot see traffic coming from the left.

7. The Department for Transport states that the Highway Authority has a duty (Section 41 of the 1980 Highways Act) to maintain the highways network to a reasonable and safe standard. We all know that Devon has the greatest length of roads in England:

1st Devon – 8093 miles – 2014/15 budget £31.5 million (Devon CC estimate that £65 million is required)

2nd Norfolk – 6255 miles – budget £19.3m

3rd N. Yorkshire – 5782 miles – budget £20.5 million.

Compared to other counties we are not doing badly. The DfT add that on March 20th they gave Devon an extra £7m to repair weather-affected roads and on June 20th a further £9m to fix pot-holes on local roads. The national road maintenance budget for 2011-2015 is £3.5billion and from 2015 -2021 it will be £6b “to ensure local highways are fit for purpose”.

8. Ditches which are not cleared properly create much flooding on our roads. There has been some improvement in some of these ditches in our area in the last week for which we are grateful. I spoke to the owner of the land opposite Lilylake Farm about a ditch on his land which was causing a problem with flooding on our road. He was very amicable and the very next day cleared out the ditch so that rainwater now goes into the drain. In a deluge we think the water would still get out on to the road because of the size of the under-road drain – but at least we are trying to solve a problem. When surface water freezes this winter, ice skating will be a possibility.

9. Well over 100 pot-holes have been filled in over the last few years but the workmen seem to have a knack of filling them all in at a different level creating something like an real off-road experience.

10. We can no longer accept statements such as “not a priority” and “no money due to central government funding cuts”. We pay the same road tax, council tax, income tax and VAT as everyone else. Something has to de done now. The Newspapers have started covering the story. It may be time to get local and national radio and TV involved.

Please come and drive over the bumps, humps, pot-holes etc. a few times – try a bicycle, a motorbike or even a horse on it. Then you will realise that in this case there has been a dereliction of duty by somebody.

Mr. R.N.Wood

We have been told by Highways that if we can make sure that this water drains off the road, then according to Cabinet Minister for Highways Stuart Hughes, this road has to be reinstated.



A group of local helpers has started digging the roadside ditches (with the approval and support of Colyton PC and Devon CC Highways).


If anyone else can add their name to the growing list of complainants, then please support this project. Thank you.