New housing and highway adoption

Road adoption for new housing schemes

Roads on new estates are built by developers to allow residents of the new houses to get to their properties from the existing highway.

This leads to questions of ownership and maintenance of the road.

Read more on the Council's policy on road adoption

Road adoption process

The developer is usually responsible for the maintenance of a road prior to its adoption by the County Council.

The adoption of a road will transfer it from being maintained by the developer, to being a public highway maintained by the County Council.

Following the adoption of a road, the County Council is responsible for its maintenance. There is no liability on individual residents to pay for maintenance of an adopted road.

The most common way roads are adopted by is under a legal agreement. Legal agreements are made under Section 38 of the Highways Act 1980.

Section 38 agreement

A Section 38 agreement is a legal document, whose signatories normally include the County Council, the housing developer and a surety provider.

The clauses of the agreement outline the standards the County Council requires the new road to be built to. If the road is constructed to these standards and maintained satisfactorily for a period of at least 12 months after it is built, then the County Council will adopt the road. Other clauses are also usually included in the agreement such as:

  • responsibility for the maintenance of the road prior to adoption
  • payment of fees by the developer to the County Council
  • any land transfer or wayleave agreements
  • what happens if things do not go as planned

Delays to adoption

Delays to the adoption process can be caused by a number of factors:

  • the developer has not constructed the road to acceptable County Council standards
  • the sewers under the road have not been adopted by the sewerage authority
  • the road construction has been completed, but there are outstanding defects which the developer needs to address. These can include defective street lights, overgrown vegetation on verges, potholes etc

Such matters can prolong the process beyond 12 months. The County Council has no legal powers to require or oblige the developer to enter into a Section 38 agreement. Sometimes, the developer may fail to keep to the terms of the agreement. In such cases the County Council may call upon the surety to enable the completion of the works. If the extent of the works required exceeds the value of the surety, the County Council may elect not to adopt the road and it will remain ‘private’.

A developer may offer a road for adoption without a Section 38 agreement. Providing that the roads are constructed to an adoptable standard, then the County Council can adopt the road via a deed of dedication, under the Highways Act 1980.

Ownership of new roads built by developers

Not all roads are adopted by the County Council.

A housing developer may decide to keep a new road private, or a new road may not meet the County Council’s road adoption standards.

More information on the County Council's Road Adoption Policy

Private and unadopted roads

If a road is private or remains unadopted, the County Council is not responsible for its maintenance or management. Private roads are often maintained by residents or housing companies. Roads which are yet to be adopted remain the responsibility of the developer.

Adoption of older roads

The County Council may consider adopting an older road; however it would need to be in a satisfactory condition for adoption. This may mean that the road owner, or residents would either bring the road up to adoptable standard, or jointly contribute to the cost for the County Council to do so.

Standards for developers and engineers

Standards for designing and constructing roads, for further guidance please see our information for developers.