Road adoption

The majority of the roads in Southampton are public highways maintainable at the public expense. These roads are cleaned, lit and repaired by Southampton City Council and are referred to as adopted roads.

Road adoptions map

The remaining roads are private streets or private roads. Maintenance of these roads is the responsibility of the adjacent landowners whose property fronts onto the private streets or private roads. The public has the right to use private streets even though they are not maintained by the council.

The process of changing the legal status of a road to that of public highway maintainable at the public expense is referred to as road adoption.

New roads that have been constructed in accordance with the council’s guidelines are normally adopted by way of an agreement between the developer and the council. Existing roads will not be adopted unless they are first brought up to current standards by the owner of the road.

For further information about road adoption or to make an application please call 023 8083 3008.

Repair of unadopted roads – Intervention procedure

The Council has a procedure in place for intervening to repair defects on an unadopted road only in exceptional circumstances and if it deems, by way of an assessment, that there is a need to urgently remove a clear and present danger to persons or traffic. Southampton City Council has no statutory responsibility to repair privately maintained highways and private streets (both also commonly referred to as unadopted roads). In most circumstances, maintenance of such roads is the responsibility of the adjacent landowners whose property fronts onto them. 

This is in line with highways legislation, in particular the Highways Act 1980 which contains provisions granting Highway Authorities limited powers to intervene in certain circumstances.

Key provisions of the Highways Act 1980:

Section 230(1) provides the Council with the power (not a duty) to act in relation to a privately maintained highway where repairs are “needed to obviate danger to traffic”. Under this power:

(a) The Council can serve notice requiring the frontagers (the owners of the premises fronting the street) to execute such repairs as may be specified in the notice, and within such time as may be specified in the notice.

(b) The Council has the power (not a duty) to carry out the works in default and it may recover the costs incurred from the owners in default. The costs and interest become a charge on those frontagers’ properties.

Section 230(7) gives the Council the power to execute at public expense such repairs as in the Council’s opinion are “urgently required to prevent or remove danger to persons or vehicles in the street”. Under this power the Council does not need to serve a notice first before acting.

Section 57(2) provides the Council with similar default powers in respect of non-repair of privately maintainable highways. With this provision the Council can recover its expenses, provided that it first served notice to the person(s) liable to maintain the highway and that they were given reasonable time to repair any identified defects before the Council acted.

An officer assessment of the road in question will be undertaken before a decision is taken whether to exercise one of the above powers. The decision of the officer assessment is final. The site will be inspected, and a decision taken as to whether the condition of the road is such that it presents an immediate danger to users. Officers will be expected to use their judgement and experience to:

  1. Identify the defects that could, in their opinion, present a danger to users
  2. Decide whether the defects are of such a nature that they require urgent attention

Regardless of the conclusion of the officer assessment, there is no duty on the Council to intervene. The Council is not responsible for injury to persons should it be assessed that the works are not to be carried out, for whatever reason it decides. That duty / liability is on the person or people responsible for maintaining the road which, as noted above, is usually the frontagers.

The Council will only exercise one of the powers under the Highways Act 1980, to intervene following an objective assessment and conclusion that intervention is needed to obviate danger. The Council will usually exercise the power to serve notice on the frontagers to execute the required works within a specified timeframe, as per section 230(1) of the Highways Act 1980 (and seek to recovers its costs where the Council carries out any works in default) and only exercise the power under section 230(7) of the Highways Act 1980 to carry out works without first serving notice if the repairs are considered to be urgently required.

The budget for repairs to unadopted roads is planned to be limited to £10,000 per annum and only where overall annual budgets allow this.