A MAN said he feels "cheated" by a council which refused to uphold his claim for £120 to cover pothole damage.

Gary Burnett hit the unmarked pothole on Southampton Road in Fordingbridge on December 4, 2023 - but Hampshire County Council discovered the defect on November 30.

Yet the council said it does not accept liability for the damage caused to the Southampton man's vehicle.

The 50-year-old was travelling home to Southampton after a 15-hour shift as night manager at Sandy Balls when he drove through a “hidden” pothole on the “super busy” road.

The impact “exploded” his tyre, causing damage “to no fault of his own”.

Daily Echo: Gary Burnett was driving home after a night shift at Sandy Balls in December when he hit the pothole.Gary Burnett was driving home after a night shift at Sandy Balls in December when he hit the pothole. (Image: Gary Burnett)

The road in question, near Godshill, is subject to four driven inspections per year in accordance with the council's policy, the last of which came on September 7, 2023.

Two months were allocated to repair the road after the pothole was found during an 'Ad Hoc inspection' on November 30.

A legal assistant for Hampshire County Council said that, because the incident happened within the two-month job period, the council did "all that was reasonably required" and will not be held liable.

Under the Highways Act 1980, the council can rely upon a statutory defence which will only succeed if it can be shown that the Highway Authority took care to ensure the defective part of the highway was not dangerous to traffic.

The legal assistant continued: "As the Highway Authority has complied with its duty to maintain the highway, and had categorised the defect for repair in accordance with our policy and the inspector’s judgement of the severity of the defect, this defence is relied upon."

Daily Echo: There was no warning for drivers on Southampton Road.There was no warning for drivers on Southampton Road. (Image: Gary Burnett)

Mr Burnett said he's frustrated with the outcome considering he followed the process "in good faith" and was met with a "very impersonal legal response".

"It was almost heartless," he said, adding: "That pothole has not just happened overnight, it was big.

"We all pay our road tax and we get nothing out of it. It’s just rotten."

Mr Burnett forked out £120 to replace his destroyed tyre and repair the scuffed alloy of his new Peugeot 407 which equated to his whole night shift’s worth of cash.

To make matters more unfortunate, Mr Burnett only drove along Southampton Road because roadworks were being done on his typical route, so he wasn’t familiar with all the road’s defects.

He said: “I felt pretty cheated. I’m a decent person, I maintain my vehicle and I’m a normal working-class person going about his day to day business."

Daily Echo: The tyre on Mr Burnett's Peugeot 407 exploded upon impact with the pothole.The tyre on Mr Burnett's Peugeot 407 exploded upon impact with the pothole. (Image: Gary Burnett)

Hampshire Council's website states that more than 85 per cent of highway-related claims are rejected.

The most common reasons for these rejections are that the claimants have no automatic right to compensation, the defect isn't deemed legally 'dangerous' and the council's argument that it took all reasonable steps to avoid the accident.

Mr Burnett said he would appeal the council's decision but doesn't expect to get anything in return.

A Hampshire County Council spokesperson said: “The County Council fulfils its statutory obligations for the maintenance of highways by undertaking a regime of scheduled inspections, and also responding to public reports of highway issues, to ensure defects are dealt with as quickly and effectively as possible.

"The law stipulates that there is no automatic right to compensation for an incident claim and claims do not have to be paid where the County Council, as the Highway Authority, can show that these legal obligations have been reasonably met.

"We are unable to discuss individual cases and therefore we cannot comment any further.”