What is a Road Warden?

Devon County Council have rolled out a scheme whereby local Parish and Town Councils appoint someone to be trained up to carry out and supervise minor repairs to roads, footpaths, hedges etc.  Its appeal, at a political level, is that local authorities take on a level of self help and, by using volunteer labour, save some money or get work done that would otherwise be unlikely to ever get done.  I am sure many have seen articles in the press where volunteers are repairing potholes in their local roads that the highways authority don’t seem to have the funds or ability to cope with.

So I stepped forward to find out more; the 1st step was to attend a 2 day course to become “Chapter 8” trained.  This is the minimum qualification that anyone working on the highway needs.  It covers signage, traffic lights etc, legislation and risk assessments.  As I have a background in civil engineering, quarries and concrete, this was all straight forward.

But the reality is that to work legally anywhere on the highway we would need a vehicle decked out in amber lights and high vis stripes, £1000 worth of signs (we can borrow these from Highways), and a team of at least 4 to operate stop-go signs, or hire traffic lights starting at £600.   This standard applies to all roads even the most minor lane where I might think the risk is so low that a couple of volunteers armed with some hand tools could easily patch a small pothole. However if there was an accident, the County would not cover any liability unless the full range of signage and traffic controls were in place.  Volunteers could then find themselves personally liable so the scheme in all practical senses is dead in the water before it starts.

On a positive note I better understand how to report potholes on the highways system, however since April this year, all work to Highways (not just the major trunk roads) has been contracted out to Skanska where previously such work was done directly by Devon Highways.   Whether or not this improves the response for repairs only time will tell.  The two are going through a huge learning curve at the moment.

Snow Warden is another title (and short training course) tacked on to the above which does have some practical benefits.  We will have an allocation of 2 tonnes of bagged salt (delivery expected mid December 17) for Parish use.  This is entirely separate from the salt bins (which are locked) that Highways (Skanska) manage as they have a statutory duty to keep principal roads free of ice and snow.

We have purchased 6 yellow salt bins holding some 70kg that we can keep stocked up.  They will be placed across the Parish for us to use for the places that Highways will never cover.

We have also acquired a salt spreader which can be fitted to the back of a tractor so that we can salt minor roads ourselves in the event of a serious freeze.  This isn’t going to be used as a preventative measure such as where Highways salt the roads when the forecast is for a freeze, its use would be after a major freeze lasting more than several days where we could take some action ourselves on clearing minor roads.  The spreader and the salt are safely stored under cover in the Parish in a store built by volunteers from Hemerdon, using scaffold tubes and metal sheets provided by DCC funding.  The volunteers at Hemerdon are part of a Woodland group from the Village Hall and own a small tractor so it made sense for them to store the spreader and salt.

Glen Peacham
Sparkwell Parish Councillor

To report a pothole email the Clerk on sparkwellclerk@gmail.com with the pothole pinpointed on a map and, if possible, a photograph.