More than 70km of road resurfacing and other vital highways improvements are to be made across Cornwall as part of a capital investment programme worth £9.1-million.
Added to an additional £5-milliom of funding awarded to Cornwall Council by central government for tackling potholes, this will see some much-needed improvement work to roads, pavements and footpaths in the Duchy.
Although not new money, the £9.1-million is a reallocation of capital funds held by the council to bring forward previously proposed schemes which may have fallen by the wayside due to budget restraints as well as other work needed to upgrade Cornwall’s deteriorated road network caused by last winter’s bad weather.
Cornwall Council’s outgoing portfolio holder for transport Cllr Connor Donnithorne has been working with officers to come up with a programme of investment which will improve both major and minor roads throughout Cornwall. In a slight reshuffle of Cornwall Council’s Cabinet, Cllr Richard Pears will be the new portfolio holder for transport while Cllr Donnithorne will be switching from his role at transport to take over as portfolio holder for customers and digital strategy.
Before that though, he spoke about the new highways plan. “The £9.1-million is one of the biggest capital investments in recent years, coming off the back of what residents and businesses across Cornwall have been telling me.
“Last winter was particularly bad when we had that bout of wet and then very cold weather which helped to massively deteriorate our road network, so I brought the officers together and asked what capital investment was required and so a pretty sizeable chunk of money will be invested for 78km (48 miles) of completely new road resurfacing. That’s Camborne to Liskeard in terms of distance.
“There will be particular sites, some in south east Cornwall where the road network is deteriorating, and around Camborne and in the Penwith area as well.”
The council already invests around £40 million a year in maintaining and improving the 7,250 kilometres (4,530 miles) road network, which ranges from busy A roads to narrow rural roads.
He added: “There are schemes where there is underspend and there’s capital allocation still there, so we are reprioritising. It’s a clever reallocation – no capital projects have been taken off the capital programme for this. I know it sounds too good to believe, but for many of these projects the capital funding is secured but timescales don’t always fit, so we looked at these proposed schemes and asked what we need to bring them forward to sort this out.”
Of the 78km of surface treatment, 38km includes bus routes, while 15km features cycle paths. “The rest of the routes will be where it is desperately needed to be fixed, even if they’re not the most heavily used roads,” said Cllr Donnithorne. “People will start seeing massive road improvements.”
The work will be on top of the £5-million from the Government to repair potholes across the county.
The councillor, who is the Conservative Party’s parliamentary candidate for the Redruth and Camborne seat at the next general election, added: “We’re one of the fastest and most effective local authorities in tackling potholes. That’s a real achievement as we are also one of the largest rural authorities; we have around 7,500km of road network which is huge. I believe we’re one of the top three authorities in the country for the number of potholes being reported and dealt with. That’s why capital investment is so critical as that’s the long-term investment. This will have a massive impact on the quality of our road network for the next five years.”
He said parts of Cornwall which don’t get the boon often afforded to tourism hotspots will also see the benefit.
“For Armed Forces Day and Tall Ships there was a lot of resurfacing in Falmouth which was absolutely needed, but there are parts of Cornwall that don’t have major events and it’s absolutely right that residents still see the investment in those parts of the Duchy as well, as everyone pays their rates, everyone pays their council tax, so it’s trying to spread that investment while doing the priority areas.
“There are seven structure schemes where we have traffic management in place or the road is closed, which have been held up by lack of funds. Those will be unlocked – that includes a big project in Callington. There’s a big cliff stabilisation in the Mousehole area, which has been a huge problem – that in itself is around £200,000, which is a big investment, as well as 12 outstanding drainage issues where there is standing water on the carriageway, an uplift to the pothole fund in addition to the £5m from Government and an uplift to the reduced lining budget. When the lines fade they’re not being repainted, so I’m putting money into that as it’s these things people expect to happen … and have stopped happening over the last number of years.
“It’s roads, it’s potholes, it’s pavements, it’s road markings, it’s footpaths. I’m acutely aware that like every council across the country we are having to be very careful how we are spending our money but £9m on this and £5m on potholes is a £14m cash injection and it’s capital which is key to long-term infrastructure.”
Cllr Donnithorne added that the council is also increasing the regularity of rural roads inspections across Cornwall.
His successor, Cllr Richard Pears, added: “We repaired 23,665 potholes last year and we all recognise that prevention is better than cure and that the most effective way to deal with potholes is to prevent them from happening in the first place. This uplift of £9.1 million of capital funding means that we can invest in resurfacing programmes, like the scheme which has just started in Callington that is being carried out overnight to reduce inconvenience to residents and road users.
“Resources will also be prioritised to deal with an increase in potholes that have formed on our roads due to the poor weather over the winter which plays a big part in their formation.”