Housing developers could be made to pay deposit to fix damage to Oxfordshire roads

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Developers and utility companies could be made to pay bonds that could be used to pay for road damage, the councillor in charge of Oxfordshire’s roads has said.

Oxfordshire County Council cabinet member for environment Yvonne Constance said she supported developers paying a deposit which would be given back once the council was sure ferrying materials to building sites had not damaged roads.

Cllr Constance, a Conservative who represents Shrivenham, said: “In my view, [developers] should pay a bond… make jolly sure they want their money back. If they want their money back, they can pay the cost of (repairs) rather than us.”

The council has a multi-million pound maintenance backlog on its roads. Despite it planning to spend £120m extra on infrastructure projects over coming years, its backlog on roads, footpaths and other key infrastructure was worth nearly £370m last year.

Cllr Constance added: “It’s not just about construction traffic (damaging roads). It is going to affect all of you as we build 100,000 houses in this county. We really do need all the powers we can get.”

Cllr Roz Smith, a Liberal Democrat county councillor for Headington and Quarry, said her division had been affected by ‘absolutely incredible’ work by Thames Water.

She added Thames Water had been expected to leave by October but now work could finish this month. She said she would ‘not be holding her breath’ over that planned departure.

Roads campaigner Mark Morrell, also known as Mr Pothole, said he ‘totally agreed’ with the council’s call. He said developers and utility companies should be targeted to keep a high standard of roads.

He said: “They play a percentage game. They know they will be held to task with some inspectors (in some local authorities). In others, they know they won’t be. It’s a risk and reward business at the moment.”

Mr Morrell added some schemes, including some in the City of London, had shown that standards of works on roads and the way they are kept would increase if councils took an active role in monitoring roads.

Conservative councillor Mike Fox-Davies, representing Hendreds and Harwell, called on councillors to agree to look at whether developers could be forced to fix any damage they had made. His motion was supported unanimously.

Referring to Grove Road in Harwell, he said: “A year ago, two HGVs could not even pass on that road, although they do now after wearing away the banking.

“Construction work started in late 2017 – and by February 2018 the road was a mass of potholes and I was just one of many drivers who lost a tyre.”

Despite the council’s pothole-filling machine Dragon Patcher visiting, he said work across similar roads the county would take 180 days to complete – on top of another backlog of work the council already needs to do.

Tom Cotton, the Road Haulage Association’s head of policy and infrastructure, said: “Lack of investment by local authorities in road maintenance is the root cause.

“Roads are designed for freight traffic of all types. Remember it takes 23 vans to convey the goods of one 44 tonne HGV. Bicester needs lots of HGVs to resupply retail.”

Cllr Bob Johnston, Kennington and Radley councillor, said he was ‘anxious’ to keep the impact of building hundreds of new homes in his division to a minimum and supported the measures.

In his ward, Kennington Road, which was notorious for its poor state, was resurfaced at the cost of £830,000. Work started in October and took three weeks.

The county council is responsible for about 2,800 miles of roads across Oxfordshire. The vast majority of those are tended to by its contractor, Skanska.

Nathan Briant, Local Democracy Reporting Service