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Government red tape holds up road repairs

VITAL ROAD repairs are being delayed by a government rule which forces local authorities to bid for money to repair flood damaged roads, municipal engineers said this week.

Under the government's 'Belwin' law, local authorities can only claim cash to repair damaged roads and bridges if they have already spent 0.2% of their overall budget.

They must also prove that damage was definitely caused by flooding.

The government has pledged an extra £12M of road repair funds towards an estimated £100M flood repair bill and has asked local authorities to bid for funds by 29 June. But the Belwin rule means some councils will be unable to bid for the extra funds.

'Given the current circumstances we would argue for a rapid overhaul of these rules so we can claim the money more quickly, ' said East Sussex County Council director of transport and environment Bob Wilkins. His county faces a £5M clean up bill.

The repair bill for flood damaged roads across the country is reported to be growing by the day with damage estimates quadrupling in the last few months.

Kent County Council said this week that its road repair bill could rise to £12M after it made an initial estimate of £2.4M.

Local authorities are still assessing highway and bridge damage with many roads still submerged due to high water tables.

Repairs to be bid for include rebuilding roads in the Kent villages of Barham and Patrixbourne near Canterbury, where the main streets have been under water since November.

'In some places the road has been worn away completely, ' said head of network management John Wale.

Gloucestershire has suffered landslips on the A46. Half of one carriageway which has sunk 200mm is being propped up.

Rural bridges in Hampshire and North Yorkshire need replacing after being washed away and land slips in East Sussex are still completely blocking some sections of road.

Local authorities have started to appoint consultants to explore cost effective land drainage to ease flooding.

Hampshire County Council has appointed consultant Posford Duvivier to look at Hambledon and consultant Upton McGougan is studying Farringdon. Roads in both villages have been under water for months.

Gloucestershire County Council has also appointed Halcrow to carry out an assessment of road conditions in the county.

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