Plastic manhole covers could be installed on roads in Somerset – to stop them from being stolen.
‘Anti-skid’ covers are to be trialled in North Somerset after scores of metal ones were stolen earlier this year.
A total of 19 manhole and drain covers, made out of wrought iron and worth thousands of pounds, were stolen from across the district in only 48 hours in March.
Five covers were taken from the village of Kewstoke, three in Dundry and two in Backwell. Covers were also stolen from Kenn Road in Clevedon.
The manholes covers are likely to have been sold as scrap following the lucrative increase in the price of metals, fuelled by unscrupulous dealers in the Far East.
The council is now working with motorcyclists in Nailsea to test the plastic manhole covers and if successful, they could be used in other areas.
The new plastic covers cost in the region of £400 each and last for around 15 years compared to the metal ones which cost around £110 but need replacing every five years.
North Somerset Council spokesman, Nick Yates, said: “We are trialling a new type of cover in one location in Nailsea.
“It is made of plastic and is anti skid. We are now working with a local motorcycle group to monitor and get feedback from the group into the performance of the cover over the coming months. The new covers are also less likely to be stolen as they have no scrap value.
“We are trialling one of the plastic covers and if this proves successful we would hope to use them in other areas across the district.”
Locals have also complained that the covers at Church Lane in Backwell have yet to be replaced – despite them being stolen nine months ago.
The council has cordoned off the area around the missing covers to warn drivers and pedestrians, but residents say work needs to be done urgently to replace them.
One resident, who did not want to be named, said: “There is no street lighting to speak of along Church Lane and to have these open manholes surrounded by barriers in the middle of the road is a safety hazard.
“One of the cordons is just around a blind bend and when you come around the corner you are on top of it before you have noticed. I wouldn’t have thought it would have taken more than six to eight weeks to order replacements and get them fitted.
"I believe there are some concerns about the fitting of these manholes because of the utilities which may be under the road. But other companies seem to manage to carry out work without these problems, so why can’t North Somerset Council. I am concerned that nine months on, these covers have not been replaced.”
Mr Yates said the covers were being replaced but there had been delays because surveys needed to be carried out.