An enterprising British businessman who built a private road when authorities failed to repair a damaged public route quickly enough has been hit by heavy charges from his local council.
Mike Watts, from Somerset in south west England, decided to open the private toll road after a landslide closed a vital section of the A431 route, cutting off his home from the nearby city of Bath.
When Bath and North East Somerset Council (B&NES) said that the public road would not reopen until the end of the year, causing local residents to take a huge, costly diversion, Watts decided to team up with a local farmer and build his own road through a field around the closed section.
He told the TaxPayers’ Alliance: “I used to turn left outside of my village and get into Bath in eight minutes. With the road closed I had to turn right and it took me one hour twenty minutes to get in. Aside from the waste of time, my petrol expenditure went right up.”
Watts has had to put his house on the line to cover the £150,000 construction costs and running costs amounting to a further £150,000. He is charging motorists £2 to use the road, which still represents a massive saving compared to the fuel they would use on the previous long diversionary route.
Despite his efforts to help local residents, the Liberal Democrat-controlled council is now threatening to charge Watts a huge £30,000 – one tenth of his total costs – when he applies for retrospective planning permission.
Tim Newark of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said that the council should waive the fees from the entrepreneurial local resident.
“I think a grateful public would expect the council to waive or severely reduce these costs to Watts and let him get on with running the toll road to the benefit of the whole community,” he wrote.
“This story really makes one wonder what the purpose of local government is when it fails to deal efficiently with a problem like this in the first place and then wants to charge an arm and a leg to those who do help out. Shame on B&NES!”
The council’s repair work is costing taxpayers £1.5 million, ten times more than the construction costs of Watts’ road.