POTHOLE WATCH: Mr Pothole serves Northamptonshire County Council with notice over dangerous roads

Mark Morrell - AKA Mr Pothole - marches into One Angel Square with his Section 56 notices. (Picture: Leila Coker)
Mark Morrell - AKA Mr Pothole - marches into One Angel Square with his Section 56 notices. (Picture: Leila Coker)

‘Pothole armageddon’ began yesterday as a Northamptonshire campaigner challenged his county council over the state of the roads.

Brackley’s deputy mayor Mark Morrell – known as Mr Pothole – landed Northamptonshire County Council with a legal challenge on National Pothole Day, which Mr Morrell staged as part of his campaign.

Mr Morrell signs the notices before handing them in to a council officer. (Picture: Leila Coker)

Mr Morrell signs the notices before handing them in to a council officer. (Picture: Leila Coker)

He served two Section 56 notices (of the Highways Act 1980) citing the council’s failure to maintain two roads – the Halse to Greatworth road and the Welsh Lane route from Crowfield to the A43 roundabout.

"It will be interesting to see how it goes," said Mr Morrell outside One Angel Square.

"Hopefully this could be the precedent across the country."

He added: “I have been warning about this pothole armageddon for five years.

“The council can defend the notice in the magistrates' courts but if they don’t have a defence it gives them six months to take action. The Halse to Greatworth road is like a rally track. There are scores or even hundreds of potholes on it.”

Mr Morrell said there is no short-term solution to the problem of Britain’s disintegrating roads. But he says the finance could be found to repair them by scrapping HS2.

“There is no short-term solution. The roads are like this because of decades of under-investment,” he said.

“After this winter the road repair bill is going to have gone up by £1bn meaning it would cost £13bn to bring the road surfaces to a reasonable standard.

“And it would take ten to 15 years to do it because most of the experienced road-makers are in their 50s now. They will need to train up new ones.

“It means a long-term investment programme. Paying for it by scrapping HS2 is the easy answer. At the last count, the estimate for building it is £104bn.

“You could put 25 per cent of that into the road system and the other 75 per cent into the NHS and public services that people need. The roads are the Government’s Achilles heel now. It’s one thing they can’t hide from people.”

Mr Morrell said anyone can serve a Section 56 notice on a local authority and has been contacted by people from all over the UK asking for advice on how to proceed.

“All I have to do is to produce evidence and people to say if the road concerned is in reasonable repair and I have plenty who will say that,” he said.

Mr Morrell was dubbed Mr Pothole after he took on his county council over potholes in Farthinghoe five years ago.

He now runs Facebook and Twitter pages, is frequently on radio and TV and is currently advising communities in several counties on how to force highways departments to repair roads.

He expressed sympathy for the county councils, who he said don’t have the money to do anything. He criticised Highways England which he said has received £16bn but has failed to make adequate improvements.

He said Highways England was spending too much on developing ‘smart motorways’ and not enough on keeping road surfaces in good shape.