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Q. When is a pothole not a pothole?

A. When Devon County Council says it’s not.

Potholes in Totnes, Devon
Potholes – since filled…

According to the Devon County Council (DCC) website a pothole must be a minimum of 40mm deep with a vertical side and at least 300mm wide. So any hole in the road with a sloping side, even if it’s bigger or deeper than this, doesn’t count as a pothole and won’t have any priority for repair.


This won’t be good news for many car drivers who are all too familiar with jolts as they hit holes in the road. Cyclists and bikers are well aware of the risks to life and limb caused by damaged road surfaces. Damage to tyres, wheels and suspension is commonplace and costly for many road users. In recent months the Totnes area has seen some prime examples of potholes. Coronation Road can provide a bumpy arrival at Morrisons. The A385 from Totnes to Dartington has several holey hazards. Yet not all of these road defects are considered to be potholes. In many cases repairs seem to take a very long time.

Morrissons Totnes Pothole
Everyone’s been in this one!

High cost

In 2023 DCC received 57,000 reports of potholes from members of the public. Each report was assessed by a trained highway safety inspector. DCC aims to assess each report within seven calendar days. Repairs should be carried out the next working day or within seven or 28 days depending on the priority awarded by the assessor. DCC claims that of the 57,000 reports received. Just following up pothole reports is a lot of work. 12000 reports were assessed as duplicates and more than 53,000 potholes were repaired. Well done to DCC for repairing nearly 8000 more potholes than were reported by the public!

Keeping up with the demand for repairs is a huge and costly task. Devon has 8000 miles of roads and this year will spend £66 million on highways and bridge maintenance. In addition DCC receives a significant number of claims for damage caused by potholes. So far in 2023/4 road users have claimed more than £410,000 for damage caused by roads. Just over £48,000 has been paid in compensation.

Call the authorities!

Next time you see a hole in the road, the best advice is to avoid it if you can and remember where it is for next time. Any damage to a road is worth reporting. This can be done right here.

Pothole in Totnes
They’re everywhere!

Remember it may not be assessed as a pothole. Even if it passes the pothole test, there could be a long wait for a repair. If you’re unlucky enough to damage your vehicle or suffer injury you can make a claim, but your chances of getting compensation are not much better than one in 10.

With so many potholes, it’s very much a question of pot luck.


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