Concerns have been raised regarding the maintenance policy of unclassified minor roads, following the recent budget announcement by Powys County Council.

Proposals include reverting some unclassified roads from their current state to unsurfaced, stone tracks. 

Fay Jones, MP for Brecon and Radnorshire said: “I am deeply concerned by the recent proposals put forward by Powys County Council regarding the maintenance of unclassified roads. The suggestion to revert these roads back to stone tracks is not only short-sighted but also a step back in our community's development and connectivity. Unclassified roads, while not major routes, are lifelines for many of our residents, particularly those living in rural and semi-rural areas. These roads provide essential access to homes, schools, businesses, and farms. The proposed policy threatens to isolate communities, hinder emergency services, and significantly impact daily life.

“Moreover, the lack of clear impact assessments on how this policy will affect property values, vehicle maintenance costs, and local environment raises serious questions about the due diligence and consideration behind this decision. It is imperative that policies of such consequence are fully evaluated for their social, economic, and environmental impacts before any implementation. I am also concerned about the apparent contradiction between this proposal and the commitments made by Liberal Democrat and Labour members during the 2022 County Council elections. Promises were made to maintain and invest in our road network, and it is crucial that these promises are kept ensuring the trust and confidence of our constituents. I urge Powys County Council to reconsider this proposal, to conduct thorough and transparent impact assessments, and to engage in meaningful consultation with affected communities. It is essential that any changes to our road maintenance policy are made with the long-term interests and well-being of our residents in mind. Our roads are more than just pathways; they are what connect us, in every sense of the word. We must not underestimate their importance nor overlook the implications of such drastic changes. I stand with Councillors and the concerned residents of Powys in seeking a more thoughtful and inclusive approach to our community's infrastructure and development.”

Councillor Iain McIntosh sought clarity from Powys County Council, saying: “Given the significant role these roads play in our community's connectivity and safety, it's crucial to understand how the council views its obligations in this regard. I am keen to understand whether this policy will be uniformly applied across all unclassified roads, including those in rural areas as well as those within housing estates in urban areas.”

Councillor Jackie Charlton responded: “As a highway authority we have a duty to maintain the highway, so far as ‘reasonably practical’, whereby it is acknowledged that the level of care required is considered on a risk-based approach. I hope that goes some way to answering your first question.

“By definition, an ‘unclassified’ road is generally of low significance to traffic and is often only of very local importance. That is not always the case, however, and our road hierarchy is not therefore solely based on classification alone. Most roads have a purpose and the risk-based approach helps to justify the level of care required.

“The proposed saving that you refer to has been placed into future years and is only a broad estimate, as further consideration and detail is still required to be formulated before a specific proposal is presented for consideration. This will not be a decision we would take lightly and would need to be considered and decided upon in the context of other pressures and saving proposals at that time. Any change in policy that may or may not be required would be subject to the normal democratic process.

“In respect of impact assessments, they are provided when the proposal is put to the Council. As mentioned above there were no proposals for this budget round therefore impact assessments were not required. Your questions in respect of wear and tear, dust etc will be addressed, if necessary, at the appropriate time.

“With regards your query of Welsh Government funding, I would advise that the revenue support grant is a crude tool, with payments made to authorities for roads based upon the network length of urban road lengths, weighted road length (principal roads weighted 3.2, all other roads 1) and traffic flow. We do not foresee any significant impact in this funding with respect of this proposal.”