Unadopted roads

Leicestershire County Council looks after streets that are classed as adopted - as defined by the Highways Act 1980. Streets that are not maintained by Leicestershire County Council are referred to as unadopted.

There are no comprehensive lists of unadopted streets.
Most streets in Huncote are adopted, but there are still some unadopted streets, or parts of streets.
Unadopted streets might be owned by a person or an organisation, but it is more common for ownership to be linked to ownership of adjoining land. In the absence of any other ownership information, it is legally presumed that a street is owned up to the midway point by the owner of the adjoining land (known as the frontager).

Neither the owners of the unadopted street, nor the owners of land having a right of access along it, are under any automatic obligation to maintain the street.

However, the owners of an unadopted street are generally considered to have a right to undertake repairs and make improvements to the street as long as they do not interfere with other people's rights of way. A person with a private right of way over an unadopted street, acquired either by grant or prescription, is generally considered to have a right to undertake repairs consistent with maintaining their right of way, but there may be no right to undertake more major improvements such as would significantly change the character of the street.

Access rights on unadopted streets

An unadopted road may be a highway over which all people have a right to pass and repass (a public highway which is privately maintained), or a private street over which some people have a private right of access either by right of ownership, agreement, grant or long usage.

Whilst a frontager to a highway has a right of access to a highway, an owner of land adjacent to a private road does not have an automatic right of access to it.

Residents often think that as they both own and pay for the upkeep of their unadopted street they have a right to obstruct it as they choose, eg by putting a gate across the street. However, it is just as much an offence to obstruct an unadopted highway as any other highway.

There is no automatic right to park on any road, whether or not it is a highway.

On adopted highways, the highway authority and the police generally tolerate parking.
On unadopted highways, waiting incidental to the use of the highway may be permitted, but long-term parking or "vehicle storage" may be a "trespass" against the owner of the road.

Repairs on unadopted streets

The responsibility for maintenance of an unadopted street lies collectively with the owners of the subsoil, who are normally the owners of properties having a frontage onto it. Therefore, Leicestershire County Council will not carry out any maintenance works to an unadopted street.

Where repairs are necessary to prevent danger to traffic using an unadopted street, Leicestershire County Council has powers under section 230 of the Highways Act 1980 to serve notice upon frontagers to all or part of an unadopted street requiring them to undertake specified repairs within a specified period.

For us, the use of this power requires consent from the County Council and involves the serving of notices and counter-notices.

Lighting, gullies and litter on unadopted streets

Lighting

Leicestershire County Council, as highway authority, may install and/or maintain street lighting on any highway, including unadopted highways. The existence of street lighting on an unadopted street provides no evidence that the street has been formally adopted in the past, or that the highway authority has become responsible for maintenance of the street merely because it has maintained the street lighting system.

Currently, Leicestershire County Council will not normally install new street lighting systems on unadopted streets, though there may be circumstances in which the district council may be able to fund such improvements. It is also possible for developers to install street lights on new developments in the hope they will be able to get the street adopted in the future, but will for a time at least fund them themselves.

Gullies

The gullies that drain the surface water of an unadopted street, together with any gully connection pipes, are the responsibility of the frontagers to that street.

Leicestershire County Council will not replace missing gully grates on unadopted streets. The responsibility for replacing them rests with the frontagers.

Litter

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 places a duty on local authorities and statutory undertakers to keep their relevant land, including roads, clear of litter and refuse.

However, this duty does not apply to unadopted streets as they are not "relevant land" as specified under section 86 of the Act. The clearance of litter on these streets is therefore the responsibility of the frontagers to that street.

Adopting an unadopted street

Leicestershire County Council would only consider adopting streets that meet the following criteria:

  • The street should be a front street, serving as the main or sole access to not less than six domestic properties
  • The street should be a through street, connecting to a street other than a back street
  • The street should be substantially built up, ie not less than 75 per cent of the frontage should be residential or industrial curtilage
  • No more than 10 per cent of the frontage shall be in land in unknown ownership

In order for a street to be adopted, the condition of the street must first be brought up to an adoptable standard at the expense of the frontagers. In other words, Leicestershire County Council would not adopt a street in a poor condition and then set about improving it using its own budgets.

There are two main methods by which an unadopted street may become adopted:

  • Firstly, frontagers may combine to undertake improvement works themselves at their own expense - construction being inspected by Leicestershire County Council. On completion, the highway authority would be asked to adopt the street by declaration. Notices would be posted with a period for objections to be made. Leicestershire County Council could apply for any objections to be overruled by the magistrates' court
  • Secondly, frontagers could apply to Blaby District Council for the street to be made up in accordance with the Private Street Works procedure contained in Part XI of the Highways Act 1980

You can Leicestershire County Council Highways department using their helpful contact form.