#6. The roads to nowhere.

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First appeared in Highley Forum and Highley News, March 2014

By the time this appears everyone will probably be aware of the state of New Road (B4555, southern approach to Highley). Hopefully, by then, we’ll also know what Shropshire Council intends to do about it, if anything. Whether they’ll do it “properly” this time or bodge it as they’ve done on every other road repair in this part of the county.

What’s so annoying is that it’s not as if they can’t do it properly if they put their mind to it.

For example, they intend doing the stretch from Tiphouse Farm to Nortons End (the junction of the B4555 and the B4363 on the way out to Kinlet) “properly” and have already done the preparatory work on the drainage, down the adjoining field, that will carry the water away from the road, which has always been the underlying cause of the problem there. This particular job will be undertaken during night-time working, from 8 pm until 6 am and planned to last for four weeks because the road is being rebuilt from substrate to top surface.

What this means is that anyone travelling out of the village in a southerly direction will have the pleasure of driving on a wonderful new stretch of road – all 500 metres of it!

I have a vision of people queuing all the way along New Road just to drive up and down that new stretch to remind themselves of what it could be like if their national and local tax money was spent on something as basic as decent roads; roads that would feed tourists into an area that is desperate to develop its potential for economic growth; roads that would service the businesses that we’d love to attract to Highley, but who wouldn’t realistically see any potential in a place served by roads that would destroy the suspension of anything short of a Warrior armoured vehicle.

It’s not the biggest question that occupies me, but it’s certainly one of them, and that is: “What has Highley done to be so badly served by a road system that falls so far short of being fit for use that it verges on the fraudulent.”

Anyone packaging a road system like ours and trying to flog it off a market stall would be summarily thrown into the back of a police van and hauled off to court, even if they’d not made exaggerated claims and merely said that the overall condition of the goods was “up to national standards”.

Why is it that Shirehall sees this little quadrant on the map as an area to be sidelined? I don’t know. Actually, that’s not true. Although I only think I might know. But that said, the evidence is pretty overwhelming.

The answer is: We’re not Shrewsbury.

Back in the summer of 2013 we were driving around North Shropshire visiting various dog rescue kennels, looking for a companion for our dying and much-loved border collie. I was chuntering away and Pauline asked me what on earth I was “wittering on” for.

Look at these roads!”

‘There’s nothing wrong with the roads!’

Exactly!!”

They have terrific roads in the north of the county. They have the industry and they have the businesses. If thing go to plan, they’ll also have the university. These things need roads. A-roads. Because they have these things, they argue their case not just for the A-roads they have but for the A-roads they insist they need in order to keep the things they have.

So another by-pass or link road appears.

All we want is properly repaired B-roads, not just to keep the few businesses and jobs we have but to attract new businesses that will bring more jobs.

Infrastructure supports local economies. Infrastructure also makes it possible for local communities to carry on the routine business of just living a tolerable life. Not a luxurious one, just a life without having to figure out how to cope with the cost of the next emergency.

That’s my concern, that cost, both financial and physical.

The financial cost to families and individuals of making a detour of 14 miles every weekday of a road closure, whether for work, getting the kids to school at Kinlet, or making the trip to the doctors in Cleobury.

The financial cost to small businesses when suppliers refuse to make the round trip of that detour, and the cost to those suppliers, in both fuel and time, who agree to make the detour as a gesture of goodwill.

Who pays?

And, of course, the potential cost of the physical harm resulting from delays in the arrival of the emergency services.

(Let us please not consider the cost of two cars meeting on one of the single-track lanes known by locals to be a short-cut out of the official detour.)

In that event, who pays the ultimate price?

In local-authority-speak it’s called “offsetting”. The council offsets the cost of accepting the liability onto the local taxpayer. You’ll be told they have a duty to do that because they have a duty to do their best for the taxpayer. You.

What am I missing here?

Stick with me folks.

Where did that cost the council feels it has to protect the taxpayer from come from if not from their eagerness NOT to spend the taxpayer’s money on things that would have saved the taxpayer money if they’d been done right the first time?

Errrr.

OK, my message to Shirehall is, if we agree to continue to tolerate chassis-wrecking, tyre-puncturing and windscreen-cracking potholes, will you agree to fix that broken stretch of road without the offsetting that will be saving our tax money for us?

Perhaps to the standard that you lot take for granted in the north of OUR county?

Please?