“In my ward of Sherrards, Monks Rise, outside St John’s Church is in a very poor state of repair with massive potholes, clearly a public highway hazard, both to people and vehicles. Through enquiries made it was established that Welwyn Borough Council own part of this land, but I have been informed the Council feels it is under no obligation to maintain its part of the road in question, they will only do so if residents meet the cost, which they are unwilling to do.
Will you agree that in hindsight and despite their original decisions not to do anything, Monks Rise needs to be urgently repaired to eliminate all hazards and risk to residents and drivers, thus protecting this authority from any negligence claims?”
The Leader asked Councillor D.Bell (Executive Member, Resources), to answer:-
“Thank you for your question, Councillor Marsh.
As officers have previously explained to Cllr Marsh, the Council has sought legal advice on this matter and whilst the Council owns part of the road, it is not adopted highway, and as such the Council has no responsibility for repairs to this road. However, if the Council was to carry out repairs, it would create an on-going liability to repair any future damage.
This is not the only road of this type in the borough and this is in fact a common occurrence throughout the country. The cost of repairs could be significant, and the Council could hardly make an exception for this location alone. As we know, the COVID pandemic will continue to put the Council’s finances under considerable strain, and it would be irresponsible for us to commit to carrying out repairs of this type knowing that a recurring financial commitment would then arise.
I can understand residents’ frustration with the situation. Hertfordshire County Council receive funding for road maintenance, but they are not currently prepared to adopt the road. Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council inherited the road from the New Towns Commission, but we receive no funding for roads.
Ideally, all roads in the borough would be the responsibility of either the County Council, or Highways England, or be unequivocally private. I will write to the Secretary of State for Transport to ask him if any funding solution exists for roads such as this small section of Monks Rise, which seem to have fallen between the cracks.”
Councillor Marsh in a supplementary question asked: “Would the Council ask Council tenants to contribute to major repairs to their own properties or allow their homes to deteriorate in dis-repair? The residents in Monks Rise pay council tax and should have their own properties repaired and maintained like others in the Borough. I appreciate that it is not owned by Hertfordshire County Council but we do need to find a solution to the problem.”
Councillor Bell answered that he will write to the Transport Secretary. Where Council tenants pay rent, that is to cover the maintenance costs of their homes. Where residents pay council tax that is to cover the cost of various services the Council provide but as a Borough Council we are not responsible for highways. There is a complicated process for allocating funding for highways that comes out of business rate retention exercises plus various other formulae. Councillor Bell agreed that it was a real problem and thought that it would be sensible for the Council to assume the liability when we receive no funding.