What is road adoption?
Road adoption is when the council takes ownership of a 'private road'. It is then managed and maintained by the council.
It becomes a public road as part of the public highway, if it has been built to adoptable standards in terms of layout and construction.
How does a road become adopted?
The council will consider adopting a new road when the freehold owner(s) of the land dedicate the road as a public highway when it is built under a Section 38 Agreement of the Highways Act 1980. It also needs to meet the following criteria:
- there is a direct link with the existing public highway network
- the public must be able to use it and it needs to offer wider community benefits
- the roads offered for adoption will have a wider use than providing access to residential or commercial properties
- the road will remain open to the public to pass and re-pass at all times when it's adopted
- the carriageway and footways offer safe passage for pedestrians and vehicles
- the carriageway and footways can drain surface water well
- street lighting must conform with local and national standards
- they are constructed to a satisfactory standard
- commuted sums are paid to provide ongoing maintenance
The developers must make sure that all roads offered for adoption need to meet the above criteria before consulting the council. The council does not adopt all new roads built by housing developers. Housing developers can keep their new roads private if roads do not meet the above criteria.
The Highway Authority will consider whether it has enough public utility to make sure that the council doesn't take on liabilities it is not prepared for when deciding to adopt a road. The Highway Authority will also think about the following:
- where developments have no through route, only the main access road will be considered for adoption subject to the main access road serving in excess of 50 residential units
- bus routes as well as roads serving community facilities will be considered for adoption
- residential access roads serving underground car parks, supported by structures or taking the form of cul-de-sacs with no wider highway benefit will not be considered for adoption
A new road will be considered for adoption provided that it meets our design standards and the developer enters into a suitable legal agreement with the council (Section 38 Agreement of the Highways Act 1980). Developers must contact the council’s Traffic and Development Section about new road adoption.
The Section 38 Agreement is a legal document, normally between the council, a housing developer and a surety, who financially guarantees the agreement.
The terms of the agreement describe that if the developer builds the new road up to the council’s standards and maintains it for a year after it has built the final phase, then the council will adopt it as a public road. The agreement normally includes other terms, such as:
- the road construction duration and the maintenance period
- responsibility for maintenance and repair of the road before adoption
- payment of the council’s fees and charges including commuted payments by the developer
- any land transfer arrangement and way leaves
Sometimes road adoption is delayed for the following reasons:
- the developer starts building the road before entering into the Section 38 Agreement
- the developer tries to vary the standard terms of the Council’s Section 38 Agreement
- the developer builds the road slowly or does not finish it
- the developer does not build the road up to the council’s standards
- delays by the sewerage authority in adopting the sewers serving the development
- delays in completing the outstanding remedial works on the adoptable highway
On larger developments the completed road may be used as site access for other phases of the development, therefore adoption can only be undertaken on completion of the whole development. This may raise further complications if the site is divided by different developers and on completion some developers leave the site without the roads being adopted.
The adoption process can be lengthy and while the road remains un-adopted, the developer is responsible for maintaining the road until adoption is complete. Otherwise it is the owners of properties or land that have frontages onto such roads who are responsible for their upkeep.
A private road is one which is not maintained at public expense. This means that the council, as a Highway Authority, is under no obligation to carry out repairs or cleaning to this road, even though it could be a public right of way to which highway and traffic law can be applied.
Residents and management companies usually maintain private roads not scheduled to be adopted by the council. An existing private road will not normally be adopted unless the owners of the road bring it up to current adoptable standards and to the satisfaction of the council and meet the above criteria. You can find out who owns a road from the Land Registry office.
Existing Section 38 adoption agreements
For enquiries regarding the existing Section 38 adoption agreements please contact the council's Traffic and Development Section on 020 8359 3555.
To obtain a copy of an existing adoption agreement, please write to:
Legal Services, Corporate Governance Directorate
2 Bristol Avenue
There is a charge for this service.
For enquiries regarding the status of all roads in the borough, please write to:
Traffic and Development
2 Bristol Avenue
We can advise on the extent of the public highway if plans are submitted to us for marking up and comment.
There is a charge for this service.
Ordnance Survey plans
The licence agreement we currently have with Ordnance Survey does not allow us to provide you with copies from Ordnance Survey maps.
You can buy Ordnance Survey plans from licensed retailers. Please visit the Ordnance Survey website for more information.