Sheffield sheds '˜Pothole City' tag as complaints drop 60 per cent

Highways repair work in Sheffield associated with the controversial felling of thousands of street trees has contributed to the number of reported potholes in the city more than halving in two years.

Saturday, 29th December 2018, 5:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 9th January 2019, 2:29 am
Amey workers resurface a Sheffield street.

Figures provided to the RAC through a Freedom of Information request showed a total of 2,468 complaints about potholes were made in Sheffield in 2017 - a 57 per cent drop on the 5,799 reports made in 2015.

In the same time period nationally, there was a 33 per cent increase in potholes being reported to councils.

Sheffield was once referred to as ‘Pothole City’ due to the problems with its roads but since 2012, Amey has been delivering a £2.2bn project known as Streets Ahead to upgrade the city’s roads, pavements and street lighting in a 25-year PFI contract.

But the scheme has become mired in controversy over the approach to removing thousands of street trees - many of them healthy - and replacing them with saplings as part of the work on pavements.

That element of the work has been on hold since March following national criticism of the use of dozens of police officers and security guards to support operations in the wake of growing protests.

Following talks with campaigners, Sheffield Council has now put forward a planned new approach which it says will see fewer trees felled.

No one from Sheffield Council was available for comment today.

But Paul Brooke, co-chair of Sheffield Tree Action Groups, said reductions in the number of potholes in the city does not justify the council’s approach to tree-felling.

He said campaigners do not believe that trees need to be removed to allow road improvements to be carried out.

“With £2.2bn of public money, we would expect nothing less than a drop in pothole reports but that doesn’t vindicate their decision to fell trees,” he said.

He said reasons given for tree removals have been to allow for work to pavements and kerbs rather than road surfaces.

“There isn’t a single tree to our knowledge on their felling list, past or present, that is on there because it caused potholes,” Mr Brooke said.

The Department of Transport announced in 2010 that it intended to support highways work in Sheffield through a Private Finance Initiative project, which led to Sheffield Council signing a 25-year deal with private firm Amey worth £2.2bn in 2012 - £1.2bn of which was through Government funding.

In October, Chancellor Philip Hammond said he would be preventing further PFI contracts - where private firms take on the risk of delivering projects in exchange for payments from the state over several decades - from being signed in future over concerns about their value to money to taxpayers.

Amey said earlier this year that around two thirds of the city’s highways have been upgraded in the first five years of the contract.