“Mark Morrell” was what people used to called Mark Morrell in his days as an engineer for British Gas, but since his retirement he’s become more widely known as “Mr Pothole”. In February 2013, he noticed that a nasty hole had opened up on a blind bend on the A422 in Farthinghoe, Northamptonshire. He told the council, who repaired it, but in May another appeared. Again he reported it but this time nothing happened, so he took the matter to the police. “Within two hours of that, surprisingly, they were out there to repair it,” he chuckles.
Police reports are one of several tactics Morrell now employs. By creating a paper trail that leads from a pothole directly to the council, he focuses council minds. “If someone gets injured or killed at that location,” he explains, “they would have to answer in court.” Morrell set up a Facebook group, in which he shared his wisdom, and his belligerent approach, with others. Soon afterwards, he decided how he would spend his retirement.
This May, Morrell carried out a review of Mr Pothole’s first year. “I have had thousands of potholes repaired across the counties I got involved in,” he says. “I’ve had some major road junctions done, and about 20-odd sections resurfaced after I kept complaining and lobbying.” This is a man, remember, who casually quotes the 1980 Highways Act and spends his leisure time reading 14-year-old policy documents from the Department for Transport (DfT). “I’m a bit of a sod for detail,” he says, and you imagine some council officers would happily upgrade that.
Now if only he might move to Stroud Green Road…
It’s not just because they’re a danger to traffic that it makes sense to treat potholes seriously; they’re also part of a wider social issue: The bigger significance behind litter, potholes and graffiti.