AN INNOVATIVE scheme which could see Barnsley’s pothole-ravaged road network filled in with recycled plastic is being explored by the council, the Chronicle can reveal.

Trials into the use of a material - plastic-bonded asphalt - began in 2016 when Cumbria County Council pioneered the approach in the UK and further funding has been secured in order to determine structural properties and its durability.

A question was posed by Coun Steve Hunt, of the Darton East ward, at the last full council meeting and the council confirmed this week that it is something which - if it’s deemed to be cost-effective and suitable - could come to the town.

A statement from Barnsley Council said: “Large-scale trials into the use of plastic bonded asphalt began in 2016, with Cumbria County Council pioneering the approach in the UK.

“Their initial pilot project secured an additional £1.6m funding earlier in the year to extend the trial and further develop the process for selection and testing of the plastic components to determine structural properties and lifecycle durability.

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“It is hoped that once complete, their pilot will provide an innovative and cost-effective solution that can assist all councils across the UK and abroad and provide a catalyst for use of recycled single-use plastic in roads.

“The Cumbria pilot is supported by four higher education and three private sector partners. As this is still a relatively new concept, the long-term effects or consequences of using plastic as a road repair material have not been fully established.

“We have contacted some of the organisations involved in pilot projects regarding the potential of using recycled plastics in road repairs and look forward to creating opportunities for Barnsley Council in the future.

“However, with more and more councils trialling this kind of material we have made contact with MacRebur, the primary UK supplier of plastic-bonded asphalt and the partner supplier for Cumbria, with a view to exploring what opportunities there could be to pilot the material here in Barnsley.

“In addition to that we will continue to monitor the Cumbria pilot and look for opportunities in our future maintenance programmes to trial any new Department for Transport-approved materials.”

In the short-term, £4m will be spent on Barnsley’s principal roads in 2019/20 - £2.18m has been allocated for maintaining routes, while £845,000 will be invested in footpaths across the borough.

Roads identified for resurfacing on a priority basis include Lowe Lane and North Lane in the Penistone East ward; Doncaster Road, Stairfoot; Highstone Lane, Kingstone; Everill Gate Lane, Darfield, Lidget Lane, Thurnscoe; Shaw Lane, Monk Bretton and Bamburgh Lane, Goldthorpe.

The cost, which comes at a time of reduced budgets, is something of a concern to Coun Hannah Kitching - Coun Hunt’s Liberal Democrat colleague - who has welcomed the council’s confirmation that they are looking into the innovative alternative.

“It’s obviously a very good idea as it’s a win-win situation - Barnsley has a problem with potholes that’s not only an expensive one but it’s recurring,” she told the Chronicle.

“After each winter we seem to be going back to square one and although work needs to be done to see how hard wearing the plastic material is, I welcome anything that costs less and allows repair work to be carried out quicker.

“Workers are playing catch-up on Barnsley’s road network and it’s great that the council has seen that another local authority has been proactive and is willing to take the idea as a potential solution.”