Northamptonshire County Council is asking people for their views on a range of innovative ideas designed to save money and ensure that the highway services remains affordable and be better tailored to local needs.
The council has acknowledged that in Northamptonshire, like elsewhere in the UK, the condition of the roads is getting worse, mainly as a result of increased usage, decades of under investment and recent severe winters.
The county council’s pioneering and nationally acclaimed approach to road repairs has helped to slow the rate of deterioration on the roads and footways and the network is now in a better state than many other authorities.
However, in order for the current network to be maintained to even a similar standard at a time when money from central government is being reduced, radical ideas are needed.
As a result the county council has launched its new highway asset maintenance strategy, an initiative that will consult with the people of Northamptonshire to see where and how some parts of the road network can be changed to reduce costs.
Cllr Michael Clarke, county council cabinet member for transport, highways and environment, said: “These are extremely challenging financial times for everyone and we’re feeling it here in local government with the county council looking to save a further £140million over the next four years.
“Clearly just abandoning our road network isn’t an option so we’re looking at a number of solutions to maintain the network with more limited funds.
“We’ve already come up with some proposals that we’re now consulting on but it is the people of Northamptonshire who will play the biggest role in this as we need them to give us their thoughts on what they think would work and what wouldn’t.”
What ideas have we had?
Some of the suggestions from the county council would see the revision of the classification of some roads and a change in usage which would reduce the inspection regime and ongoing maintenance costs.
Other measures include reducing the width of some rural roads to a single lane with passing places thereby restricting the type of vehicle that can use them, helping preserve surfaces.
Already work has begun to de-clutter roads of costly unnecessary signage and it is anticipated that this downsizing could be spread to possibly encompass redundant assets including some roads and bridges.
Parish councils and community and residents groups are also being asked whether they would consider taking part in some simple maintenance work including looking after wildflower verges, hedge cutting and clearance of ditches.
There are also option for parishes, towns and community groups to take ownership of assets such as electronic roadside message signs, grit bins, village signs and gateways.
The assessment of any new ideas expressed through the consultation will be weighed against other factors such as legislation and government guidance, demographic data, financial costs and environmental impacts.