It is probably fair to assume that Chris Barke (NCE 17 June) has not had to manage a highway maintenance budget in recent years.
As, until recently, service manager responsible for highway maintenance in a large city for 12 years, I oversaw a gradual move away from a large annual surface dressing programme, which had always been unpopular in an entirely urban area, and had been seen as generally 'cheap and nasty' for the most part.
However, there remained a place for this method, but as a relatively small part of a programme which used a widening product mix, including thin surfacings and a variety of surface treatments, including slurry seals.
Surface dressing remained the cheapest process available, and does have significant environmental benefits by enabling otherwise worn surfaces to 'hang-on' for longer, with little or no generation of waste materials on site.
With no let-up in the pressure on budgets, it is likely to continue in use to some extent, doing a useful job on carriageway surfaces which need some attention, but would never otherwise reach the top of a very crowded list.
John Tedstone (M), johntedstone@hotmail. com