The new pothole in my life

Hello Partington Close. Following the Stroud Green Road saga and the successful efforts to dethrone Beaumont Rise, you are now the pothole of my life.

After months of chasing about the huge pothole on Partington Close, it’s first secured a line of paint around it and now – a plastic cover too. Progress, of a sort:

Partington Close pothole

There are a couple of serious points behind my pothole sagas. First, it’s easy for some people to mock – and they do – concerns about getting potholes fixed. But take the example of the Partington Close one. It’s slap bang in the middle of where you would push a pram if you are crossing the road and turning into the street. It’s big depth means it can hold a lot of water – and water equals horribly soaked pedestrians. And its big depth means risk of damage to cars not to mention aggravation for anyone driving over it with a bad back or similar. Finally, neglected streets are one of the contributory factors to feelings of neglect in a community that feeds anti-social behaviour. The collective benefits of keeping our streets in good order are far from trivial.

My second reason is curiosity. I’m not the only person to pass by these potholes by any means, so why do they remain unrepaired for so long? Sometimes it’s a matter of some of them involving very complicated underlying causes (as was the case with Stroud Green Road and the hunt for the water leak). Partly it’s a matter of very few people taking them up. Only in one of these three cases do I know for sure that anyone else reported the pothole. However even if the other cases people also did (quite possible), I know from talking to various officials in all three cases that they were not exactly flooded with people raising the issue. So finally, it’s also a matter of the potholes being mini-case studies in how communities do or don’t function well together. Why do so few people think it worth reporting an issue? How do people find each other and organise to push for action where the authorities are then slow to act?

Those aren’t easy questions to answer, but it’s the ability to turn knowledge of a problem into a belief that it is worth taking up – and the ability to organise with others where needed – that has to underpin the sort of healthy communities which community politics (and the ‘Big Society’ for that matter) strives for.

For more on this theme, see the talk I gave at the Respublica fringe meeting at Liberal Democrat conference and my chapter in Reinventing the State.


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