Potholes! An open letter to ESCC

Hastings and Rye Liberal Democrats
44, St Helens Park Road,
Hastings, TN34 2DN


Mr Rupert Clubb
Director of Communities, Economy & Transport
East Sussex County Council
St Anne’s Crescent
East Sussex

30th January 2024

Dear Mr Clubb

I write to you on behalf of the ‘Hastings Potholes’ Facebook group, which now has close to 700 local members. I’m contacting you in your capacity as Lead Officer for Transport for the South-East, and with particular regard to your responsibility for road safety. We hope to convey to you our deep dissatisfaction with the road conditions and our growing anxiety that failing road surfaces will ultimately result in serious injury or worse.

As you can imagine, deep potholes cause a particular danger to cyclists and motorcyclists, but they are also causing dangerous and unpredictable manoeuvring of traffic as drivers attempt to avoid them and avert damage to their vehicles. These circumstances are having a detrimental effect upon road safety and threatening the health and well-being of local road users and their families.

Potholes are also causing considerable financial loss to drivers, who are having to replace tyres, repair cars, claim upon insurance and pay for roadside recovery services. During a cost-of-living crisis, families and businesses can ill afford this. It should also be noted that taxpayers are frequently unable to recover these losses from East Sussex County Council. Lastly, roads in Hastings have become so bad that buses are being diverted, causing confusion and inconvenience for users of public transport.

Personally-speaking, I have lost two expensive tyres, and reference to the Hastings Potholes group, will reveal extensive testimony of similar incidents, ranging from inconvenience and financial loss to real physical danger. Few local road users have the time, faith or persistence to report the number of potholes we daily encounter. Many now assume they will not be reimbursed and therefore do not report and do not claim. The system is not only grossly inefficient, it is grossly unfair.

With severe under-funding of local authorities, changing weather patterns and heavy road use, we appreciate that this issue does represent a considerable challenge, however, we feel entitled to timely answers to the following questions:

1. Could we be reassured that ESCC fully appreciate the considerable impact this severe deficiency in our road network is having on the daily life and finances of local people?
2. Given the clear and extensive evidence of severely potholed roads across the county, could the claims procedure be simplified, expedited and made more transparent and fair?
3. Could we be assured that taxpayers are getting value for money, and that contractor profits are not prioritised over the obligation to fix our roads, save our vehicles, and potentially safeguard drivers’ and passengers’ lives? Anecdotally, we are advised that too few maintenance gangs are employed on repairs. We expect sufficient gangs to be employed across the county to address this issue. We also request that ESCC or Balfour Beatty staff are made responsible for spotting, monitoring, and reporting potholes. They are the experts. Why is this responsibility devolved upon road users?
4. Could we also be advised of the ways in which ESCC Highways are meeting their duty of care to maintain the safety and usability of roads that are kept at public expense? These responsibilities are set out in the Highways Act 1980. Could we be assured these obligations are being met in full?
5. Lastly, it would be greatly appreciated if East Sussex road users in general, and the Hastings Potholes membership in particular, could be advised of the current strategy to address this problem and the timescale within which it will be remedied.

Yours Sincerely

Guy Harris and Stewart Rayment
Hastings and Rye Lib Dems
The Members, Hastings Potholes Facebook Group.

Image Credits: Nick Forman .

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  1. Given that local government has been starved of cash deliberately by central government for over a decade, surely this letter should also be copied to local MPs, not only for Hastings but the whole of East Sussex. They are the ones with their hands on the Treasury and seem to be happy to offer ‘largesse’ for certain projects but not keeping the country moving safely!

    • Hear, hear. As many of you know, I now live in Hastings Old Town and we are suffering the same experience with potholes here and in surrounding areas. Locally, our pavements are cracked and broken, causing numerous falls (my own included) and we were safer walking in the roads, taking care not to encounter traffic. However, with the amount of potholes this is no longer an option. Our local council is reputed to be ‘almost bankrupt’ and state that it is unable to afford the necessary work, yet are paying out large amounts in compensation to people who have been injured by falls on the pavements.

      • Hi, Jane. Yes, this was written on behalf of the Hastings Potholes group on Facebook, with particular regard to the potholes there, but obviously it’s an serious issue in Rye and environs too – we lost one tyre on Deadman’s Lane and one on the appalling 2082 Wittersham Rd. I copied Mrs Hart to the above but have not yet had a response from her office – I know she has been responding to the issue though. It’s the responsibility of East Sussex County Council, and they have sent an interim response, so I’ll keep you posted. Clearly, it’s part of the bigger problem of austerity, and the letter acknowledges that but asks for particular assurances.

  2. I’m seem to remember a month or two ago, the government set a side quite a few million for road repairs , not seen many results as yet!!

  3. Jeanette is absolutely right. Local government has been starved of money by central government, and potholes are one of many results as councils struggle to make ends meet. Many other infrastructure assets and services are also failing due to government neglect: water/sewage, rail, social care, NHS waiting lists, school repairs, the environment, planning services — the list is almost endless. Just how close is ESCC from declaring itself bankrupt? It’s obviously struggling if it’s unable to repair our roads. Government needs to make more money available to councils urgently, and not just the sticking plaster amount recently promised that will only last until the general election. If the opposition wins power, they will inherit a shattered and broken local government situation.

  4. Just an update: As of 15th Feb, there has been no reply to this letter sent on behalf of over 900 local road users. There has been no acknowledgement from Mrs Hart’s office at all, and no response from East Sussex County Council, who aim to respond substantively within ten days. A response is now overdue.

  5. A response to the above letter has finally arrived from ESCC. In the meantime, the group has grown to 1200 members. The full letter can be read on The Hastings and Rother Potholes group on Facebook, and I’ve broken down the main takeout from the letter there. Much of what’s been submitted in reply isn’t new information, however, indeed, the most important feature of the letter is what isn’t there. I asked for information about the strategy for addressing the problem, ie, the longterm plan to meet an ongoing problem which will likely only get worse in coming years. That question was side-stepped, perhaps understandably, as it’s an issue beyond the capacity of ESCC… Still, it would be interesting to know how, in the future, Hastings and Rye’s roads are going to endure heavier vehicles, worse weather and dwindling funds to repair them? It’s probably a question for this Govt – or the next…


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