Red tape prevents road sign repair - for two years

Somerset County Council says its hands are tied

Updated: 
The fallen road sign in Tarnock

Somerset County Council has reportedly failed to mend a fallen road sign for more than two years - because it has to approach 22 different bodies for approval.

According to the Sunday Times, the council needs to consult organisations including Virgin Media, Orange, the National Grid and Wales & West Utilities over the positioning of cables and pipes.

Last month, local Lib Dem MP Tessa Munt asked a question in the House of Commons about the fallen road sign.

"A road sign at Tarnock on the main A38, which marks a junction leading to the village of Mark, fell apart some two years ago, and is still lying by the roadside, completely obscured by undergrowth," she said.

"May we have a debate on why Somerset county council's highways department feels that it has to consult 14 different statutory authorities and wait nearly two years for their responses before it can fix a road sign? Does the Leader of the House agree with me that it sounds completely barmy?"

But while Leader of the House William Hague agreed that "it does sound fairly barmy," he said a debate was unlikely to be forthcoming.

Somerset County Council has defended its lack of action, telling the Daily Mail that it is only abiding by its legal obligations.

"We have a legal obligation to gather relevant information before we carry out work," a spokesman claimed. "This isn't a sign that has any road safety benefit, so it has to wait while we do things that we have to consider higher priority."

With heavy pressure on council budgets, many road repairs are being left undone. A report earlier this year from the Asphalt Industry Alliance found that it would now cost £12 billion to get the country's roads back into a decent state of repair. Last winter's gales and floods only added to the problem, with much of the previous year's work to repair potholes undone by the high winter rainfall.

Last month, David Cameron announced plans to splash out £15 billion on a "roads revolution", adding hundreds of miles of extra lanes on the country's motorways and trunk roads. However, Chris Todd, roads campaigner at the Campaign for Better Transport, said it would be better to spend the money on improving the rads we have.

"These schemes will make people more dependent than ever on their cars, place greater costs on the NHS, while failing to tackle problems like the massive backlog of pot holes blighting local roads," he said.

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