Councils face £20m bill to repair West's flooded roads
Additional damage to the already crumbling Westcountry road and pavement network is affecting business and tourism and landing motorists with increased repair bills, experts claim.
Cash-starved councils in the region face a repair bill in excess of £20 million after the winter downpours and subsequent flooding.
Now motoring group the AA has literally counted the cost of surface damage to the South West roads and pathways in its Streetwatch survey.
It calculated 5.2 potholes for every mile, or roughly 65,000 in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset.
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Tim Jones, chairman of the Devon and Cornwall business council, said awareness of the problem was growing.
"It is not just the main roads which need to be kept in good order as minor routes can lead to important parts of our tourist economy," he added.
The AA survey found that while the number of potholes in roads has fallen from an average of 14.9 last year to 12.5 this year, the state of footways was declining. The overall South West figure of 5.2 potholes per mile, was above average, with only London seeing less damage at 4.9.
AA president, Edmund King, said: "Patching up the roads after last winter's ravages has brought some improvement but their condition is on a knife-edge and drivers are still likely to have to dodge potholes."
Devon County Council was handed a share of a £100million fund set up by the Labour Government in 2011, after the winter freeze of 2010, for repairing potholes.
Now the authority predicts it may have to find £10 million to keep up with the worsening surface damage.
The leader of the Conservative-run council, John Hart, says members "don't know" where to find the cash, which is £10 million and counting.
Stuart Hughes, the council's cabinet member for highways, said the survey showed the "strides" made following consecutive severe winters, which saw a record 200,000 potholes filled in 2010, reducing to 130,000 repairs in 2011.
Councillor Hughes added: "We are already investing an extra £5 million this financial year and we will be receiving £6 million from the Department for Transport in the coming financial year for highway maintenance.
"But having sustained more than £10 million of damage on our network since last July due to flooding, it still falls well short of the amount we need to carry out repairs."
Cornwall Council said the flooding had "accelerated the rate of damage" and a spokesman added: "November's floods caused around £3 million of damage to our highways and environment infrastructure. We are assessing the damage following December's floods and expect this figure to rise."
A new study from Halfords claimed eight million vehicles a year suffer steering and suspension damage because of poorly maintained road surfaces, with complaints to councils doubling during December compared to the rest of 2012.