What Causes Potholes All Over Sussex and Surrey?

Estimated reading time 8 minutes

No matter where you drive across Sussex, Surrey, or Kent, you will surely find plenty of potholes lining the roads. Some minor, causing you nothing more than a little jolt as you drive, others major, and seeing your vehicle take on significant damage.

Community social media pages are often awash with residents complaining of the damage being caused, the safety risks of the potholes and the poor efforts by local authorities to get the issues rectified. It’s been estimated that it will take as long as nine years at a cost of £12bn to fill every pothole in the UK. Kwik Fit has also delved into the costs and reported that in 2021/22 13.3 million motorists said their car had been damaged by a pothole with drivers having to spend an average of £132 to repair their vehicle. Other reports though have seen the average repairs from pothole damage reach close to £1,000.

So, what is causing them and how can they be fixed to save drivers money and help prevent accidents? We took a look.

What causes potholes?

There are a variety of reasons potholes form and as Sussex surfacing specialists, we feel we are in a strong position to outline the main causes based on what we see day to day and what we have had to do when booked to rectify any. In our opinion, and that of many others in our industry, there are five main causes of potholes.

Poor surfacing

A new road may look great when it is first laid, and people are quick to praise the council or landowner for rectifying a long-standing problem. If they have chosen cheap, inadequate, unsuitable materials though, it won't be long before the potholes emerge again very quickly. Road surfaces laid incorrectly or with the wrong surface type are more prone to cracks and splits which will then lead to potholes.

Extreme weather

We all know that weather across the southeast can be hugely variable. One moment we are enjoying a stunning summer, the next a deluge of torrential rain hits us. This isn’t good for our roads and pavements, especially if they have been laid poorly. It’s made even worse when we experience extreme cold. As ice melts, the water seeps into cracks, then expands as it freezes again. This then causes the surface to break up and leaves you with potholes.

General wear and tear

No road is built to last forever but it would seem some surfacing companies or council departments may assume they do! Roads that encounter a heavy traffic level are more inclined to suffer from damage. That is only natural. This damage can lead to cracks that turn into holes and in worse cases, become huge craters right away due to poor installation and general maintenance.

Poor drainage

This is one of the most common causes of potholes, especially in more remote areas where traffic flow is low, so maintenance is given less priority. Water sits on the top of the surface rather than being drained away correctly, and as a result, seeps into the road or pavement surface and causes it to expand, crack and rapidly weaken.

Poor maintenance

Sometimes, the reason potholes form is just a genuine lack of care. Whether the installation was cheap or laid with the best possible materials, it will always require a degree of attention to keep it in its best condition. Regular inspections, sealing of cracks or filling of potholes will stop things rapidly escalating and potentially costing much more to repair.

How can potholes be prevented?

With figures of as high as £12bn being reported for filling all the potholes across the UK, it doesn’t come as a surprise that the job hasn’t been tackled head-on. It’s a lot of cash after all! However, the longer it is left, the worse it will get. We can do things to prevent them though, and this stands to save local councils much more money in both the short and long term.

Inspection of surfaces

A regular inspection schedule of roads, particularly those that may be more vulnerable than others would be an ideal starting point. Even encouraging the public to report them would be worthwhile for the councils. That way, areas of priority can be determined, and a plan of action devised. Potholes can be reported via the government website.

Ensure roads can drain

As mentioned earlier, a build-up of water can cause road surfaces to suffer. This is made even more problematic if drains are left blocked, ditches are cluttered, or surfaces aren’t installed with drainage in mind. Opting for a specialist surfacing company is essential in this regard as they can advise on the best surface types for the levels of traffic, drainage capability and general maintenance.

Increased maintenance

Regular sealing of road surfaces can be a preventative measure that can either stop potholes from developing or make other damaged parts get any worse. This helps give the road a watertight seal that will reduce the chances for the road surface to crack, expand and develop severe faults.

Optimise your maintenance schedules

Local authorities and energy suppliers often must conduct other works on or near road surfaces to rectify faults, alter services or install something new. This can be beneficial to the area but the repair work after these jobs are completed needs to be of a high standard. Each job that requires a surface to be tampered with weakens it overall. This means that any surface that has been excavated must be replaced with a high-quality replacement. Otherwise, you’ll only find issues with the road increasing.

Create a resurfacing schedule

It is often easier to firefight a problem as things can go back to normal relatively fast. The only issue here is that the problem has never fully gone away. The cost to keep repairing potholes and other road damage eventually outweighs that of a full road resurfacing.

Implement new traffic rules

In some cases, where pothole repair may be possible, there is every chance they could reappear. With correct traffic management, roads more susceptible to potholes forming can benefit from an extended life and a safer drive for its users. Restricting heavy/large vehicle access to certain roads can help councils save millions as less damage occurs.

How to fill a pothole

The best course of action to fill potholes is to seek the advice and expertise of a surfacing company. Attempting to search for a method online and do it yourself, whilst budget-friendly, is hugely detrimental in the long term. Not only will you have to spend vast sums constantly patching up the potholes but there is every chance you use materials not suitable for the levels of traffic or weather.

Instead, asking an experienced team like Tidey & Webb to complete it will mean you not only benefit from the use of premium materials but also our vast knowledge of suitable surfacing solutions for your pothole-ridden road.

How much is being spent on pothole compensation?

Despite people paying anything from £100-1000 to repair their vehicle after pothole damage, and millions of drivers suffering as a result, it may be interesting to know that councils aren’t compensating drivers very much at all. A request by Halfords revealed that several local authorities are very reluctant to pay compensation. We looked at the data and saw that across Sussex, Surrey, and Kent, of 7,849 claims made for pothole compensation, only 647 resulted in any form of compensation. This was at a total cost of £224,488.81, resulting in an average of £346.97 per driver. A breakdown of the spending per local council is shown below.

CouncilNumber of claimsPaid ClaimsAverage PaidTotal Paid
East Sussex County Council1805196£385£75,460.00
West Sussex County Council1045108£299.88£32,387.04
Kent Country Council164586192£16,512.00
Surrey County Council3354257£389.61£100,129.77

Whilst the number of successful claims is small, the worse the situation gets, the more likelihood of there being successful claims, meaning councils will be spending on both compensation and attempting to tackle the problem. Therefore, putting a further strain on funds. The solution would be to tackle the problem in a planned manner where genuine fixes are made to help drive down the number of claims and improve the roads of the area. As ever, our team are only a call or email away to help rectify this problem. We take on commercial resurfacing and residential resurfacing projects of all sizes, ensuring a long-lasting solution to frequent surfacing problems.  Contact us today to find out more about how we can transform the roads, paths, car parks and playgrounds of the southeast.

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