Maintenance liability for highways
Produced in partnership with Nicholas Hancox of Nicholas Hancox Solicitors
Maintenance liability for highways

The following Local Government guidance note Produced in partnership with Nicholas Hancox of Nicholas Hancox Solicitors provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Maintenance liability for highways
  • Highways not maintainable
  • Highways privately maintainable
  • Highways maintainable at the public expense
  • The highway authorities
  • Street lighting

Highways not maintainable

There are some, but very few, highways for which nobody has any liability for maintenance. All other highways are maintainable either at the public expense, by a private firm or by one or more private individuals who (in most cases) turn out to be frontagers or owners of the subsoil.

Highways privately maintainable

The most common form of privately maintainable highway is one that has been recently built under a Highways Act 1980 (HiA 1980), section 38 agreement. Until a new adopted highway has been open for about 12 months, the builder generally retains the liability for its maintenance. The developers and successive owners of some (typically residential) streets built after 1835 and of some modern industrial estates have chosen to build their streets to a poor or unorthodox standard, which the highway authority did not or will not accept for adoption. Many of these streets are not highways at all, but some of them have become privately maintainable highways; they have been dedicated and accepted for highway use by the public (albeit not by the local authority) and yet they have not been accepted for public maintenance.

Once highways are adopted under HiA 1980, s 38, they are maintainable at public expense by the highways authority. However, developers may still be required to fund future