THE bad news that urgent and major structural repairs are now required on an extremely busy and vital trunk road in North Devon is, for many rural communities, devastating.
What makes the situation 10 times worse is the appalling incompetence being so clearly demonstrated by the Highways Agency and local authorities in a situation they should have anticipated many months ago in the dry summer.
We all lived through and experienced the appalling floods and flood damage caused in the autumn-winter period a year ago. We all saw what the floodwaters did.
A civil engineer of my acquaintance told me seven months ago the infrastructure damage (to roads, power supplies drainage, and above all landscape stability) in the Devon river valleys would be colossal.
If he knew that seven months ago (March 2013) why didn't the organisations supposedly responsible for our infrastructure know it as clearly and certainly as he did?
Why was there no detailed and thorough examination of all vital infrastructure immediately after the floods receded and an intensive programme of restructuring set in train, with a clear and heavily advertised notification of expected road closure and other dislocation of services?
Why have they waited all through the dry spring and summer until the onset of the autumn rains to suddenly discover that they (and we) have a very serious problem requiring urgent attention?
Might one not ask if that kind of professionalism is exactly what we pay them for?
The authorities concerned will almost certainly respond to serious criticisms like these with bland reassurance that everything is under control and perfectly arranged.
The evidence before many residents of North Devon is entirely to the contrary. "They couldn't organise a drinks party in a brewery", as one of my fellow residents of Chulmleigh put it.