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Rural priest loses pothole car claim

29 October 2021


Pot holes in a country lane at Shifnal, Shropshire

Pot holes in a country lane at Shifnal, Shropshire

POTHOLES on Shropshire roads have cost a rural parish priest about £1000 in car-repair bills — and no compensation is forthcoming from the local council.

The Revd Paul Cawthorne is Priest-in-Charge of Astley, Clive, Grinshill and Hadnall, in Lichfield diocese. His work entails a great deal of driving, some of it at night. He has driven for 30 years, and never, he says, encountered a problem on this scale previously.

“You try to weave round them, but you hit into them and wince,” he said on Tuesday. “They push up the road surface and expose tree roots, which compounds the problem, and, when there’s been heavy rain, the worst ones have water sitting in them so become invisible in the dark.”

There are 30 potholes within the parish boundary, and two-thirds of them have been repaired or re-repaired, Mr Cawthorne says. Others have been designated as needing no action. The springs, bearings, and suspension parts on his Nissan Note have to be replaced regularly. A new set of tyres recently cost a further £200 after damage to the rims.

“Parking? No, it now stands for pothole”

“My mileage allowance is entirely consumed in car-repair bills. It’s a big issue for me, and I can’t keep this up,” he said.

Mr Cawthorne has sought compensation from Shropshire Council, which encourages the reporting of potholes and issues frequent updates on the number that it has repaired. The figure currently stands at 15,189 holes repaired since 15 April, which, it suggests, equates to 2500 a month.

The council awards compensation only where it is considers it would be legally liable in respect of an incident. Claimants must “Provide a map or street image (such as Google) with a mark pinpointing the location where your incident occurred; include an image of the defect in the context of the surrounding areas; specify the defect to which the damage or injury is attributed when multiple defects are present.”

It further emphasises: “Failure to pinpoint the exact location and defect causing the incident will mean that the claim can’t be considered.”

A survey by Citroën this year found that 32 per cent of motorists had suffered damage to their cars from potholes. The average repair bill was £140 each time: one in ten drivers is paying out £250. Of the £8.1 million estimated to have been paid in road-related compensation during 2019-20, £5.9 million was for pothole damage to vehicles.

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