Q. The house I’m buying is on a private road and the local authority searches have raised the point of a possible ‘road adoption’ by the local authority, can you explain?

A. Road adoption is a term used to describe the council taking ownership of a ‘private street’.

A ‘private street’ is a road that is maintained at private expense. This means that the council, as a highway authority, is under no obligation to repair or clean the street, even though it could be a public right of way to which highway and traffic law can be applied.

When a street is adopted, the council maintains it at the public’s expense.

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 under section 38 of the Highways Act.

Existing private roads will not normally be adopted unless they are brought up to current standards by the owners of the road. Many private roads, for example, are unpaved, or lack kerbs, footways, surface water sewers, gullies or adequate lighting.

The cost of constructing a street to adoptable standards must be met by the street owners/residents. The council does not have a budget for this and cannot be of any financial help. The Highways Act (1980) does allow the council to carry out work to raise the standard of a private street, but the cost of this work must still be met by the street owners/residents. This is likely to be the reason your solicitor has bought it to your attention, check with your local authority whether there are proposals in place to adopt or not?