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£11m bill for injuries and damage due to bad roads and footpaths

By Brent Campbell

Published 17/11/2016

Potholes are a major problem on roads across Northern Ireland
Potholes are a major problem on roads across Northern Ireland
Ulster Unionist MLA Andy Allen

More than £11 million has been spent compensating people for damage or injury sustained on Northern Ireland's roads and pavements in the last five years.

In total, £11.2m was paid out between April 2011 and April this year.

The figures were released by Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard after an Assembly question from Ulster Unionist MLA Andy Allen.

Mr Allen said it illustrated the problems caused by neglecting our road network and footpaths.

"The amount of compensation that has been paid out over the five years is deeply concerning," he said.

"It highlights the need of the department to maintain roads and infrastructure to a high standard because the financial consequences of not doing so are severe."

The East Belfast MLA requested the information after it emerged that 2,800 claims were made in the past year as a result of roads or footpaths being in a state of disrepair - up almost 1,000 in just 12 months.

The 2015/16 figure is the highest to date, surpassing the 2011/12 total of 2,741. In 2012/13, the number of claims stood at 2,402.

Mr Allen added: "When I saw the level of claims, I was expecting the cost to be high.

"There are major financial consequences for the budget of the Department for Infrastructure, but also for others. This has major repercussions for public safety."

Mr Allen believes that more spending by the department could decrease the number of compensation payouts.

He added: "People may be entitled to a legitimate claim, but if we invest the money into repairs, it will prevent people from being injured. Proper investment will save other departmental budgets and lower other costs that may be associated with this issue."

The Department for Infrastructure said it was aware of the rising number of claims and pointed out that it had taken measures to secure and prioritise additional funding for maintenance purposes.

"The department is mindful of the increasing number of public liability claims and continues to monitor the number of claims received and identify trends," it said.

"There are many factors which can impact on the number of claims, such as traffic volumes, the underlying condition of the road network, long-term weather patterns and the level of road maintenance.

"Routine maintenance activities such as pothole repairs deal with short-term safety-related issues on the network."

The department said Mr Hazzard had secured additional funding for routine maintenance in the June monitoring round - an allocation of unspent Stormont funds.

This has resulted in a much improved level of service, the department added.

"Within the Department for Infrastructure there are a number of competing priorities in the roads, water and transport sectors, of which roads resurfacing is one," it said.

"The minister has been working with Executive colleagues to enhance funding this year and will continue to make the case for future investment in the network.

"In June he secured £10m to deal with the most pressing maintenance issues on rural roads.

"In October he secured a further £15m, to bring the current budget to £81m."

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