Plea for government cash to fix drought-damaged roads in Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire

Councils in the East of England have appealed for extra government cash to repair drought-damaged roads.

Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire are among the county authorities which have submitted bids to the Department for Transport for urgent repairs to the transport network.

The Fenland area has been highlighted among the worst affected as the persistent dry conditions caused soil to shrink under road surfaces, causing them to crack and become uneven.

Cambridgeshire County Council has asked for �9.9m to repair drought damage which has affected almost 10pc of the county's 4,342km of roads.

The council's cabinet member for community infrastructure, Steve Criswell, said: 'The state of some roads in Cambridgeshire is causing us real concern.

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'The scale of the damage is beyond anything which can be funded locally if we are to continue to meet all the other demands on our highway maintenance and improvement budget and I am hopeful that the government will recognise the scale of the drought which has had such an impact on the highway network, not just in Cambridgeshire, but across the whole of the region.'

Norfolk County Council has renewed its pleas for an extra �3.8m of funding. Graham Plant, cabinet member for planning and transportation, has written to transport minister Norman Baker after an earlier application was turned down.

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The letter says: 'Whilst I understand your reluctance to offer financial assistance I do believe the situation that we face in Norfolk, and adjacent authorities, is exceptional.

'I would ask that you reconsider our request for additional capital funding to address this exceptional deterioration in the condition of our highway network in the Fens area.'

Meanwhile, a �10.4m road surface dressing programme will begin across Norfolk next week to improve skid resistance and prevent water from getting into road structures.

The county council's annual programme, which involves laying a thin layer of bitumen and chippings onto roads, will begin on April 11 with gangs starting work in the Brundall, Belton and east coastal areas.

Mr Plant said: 'British weather means the temperature of road surfaces can vary enormously causing our roads to expand and contract. This can cause cracks, which let in water and lead to frost damage. Surface dressing keeps out water and reduces the number of potholes caused by frost.'

Where possible, the work will be planned away from busy roads during peak periods, and the aim is to complete busier routes by the end of July. People living along affected routes will receive notification a day or two before the crews arrive, and a 20mph speed limit will be imposed during work and on freshly-laid surfaces for safety reasons.

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