Frequently asked questions about adoption of new housing development roads

Q: Why do housing developers build new roads?
A: Housing developers build roads for residents of new houses to get from the existing public highway to their properties.

Q: What is road adoption?
A: Road adoption is a process where a road in private ownership becomes a public road, which is then managed and maintained by the County Council, as part of the public highway.

Q: Does the County Council adopt all new roads built by housing developers?
A: No, housing developers can choose to keep their new roads private and some roads do not meet the County Council's road adoption policy. Refer to the County Council's 'Policy on Road Adoption' for further information about the types of road that maybe adopted.

Q: Who looks after private and unadopted roads?
A: The County Council is not responsible for the management or upkeep of unadopted or private roads. Residents and management companies usually maintain private roads not scheduled to be adopted by the County Council.

Q: What is the advantage of having a new road adopted?
A: Adopted roads become part of the public highway. Following adoption, the County Council manages and maintains the road at the public expense. Individual residents do not have to pay for maintenance of adopted roads.

Q: How do developers get their new roads adopted?
A: New roads are most commonly adopted under a legal agreement and sometimes via a dedication process. Agreements are made under section 38 of the Highways Act 1980. They are often called 'section 38 agreements'.

Q: What is involved in a section 38 agreement?
A: The agreement is a legal document, normally between the County 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 County Council's standards and maintains it for a year after it is built, the County Council will adopt it as a public road. The agreement normally includes other terms, such as:

  • the road construction duration and the one-year maintenance period
  • responsibility for maintenance and repair of the road before adoption
  • payment of the County Council's fees and charges by the developer
  • any land transfer arrangements and wayleaves
  • what happens if things go wrong.

Q: Who is responsible for a new road before it is adopted?
A: The developer is normally responsible for the maintenance and repair of the new road up until the County Council adopts it. As above the County Council is not responsible for unadopted and private roads.

Q: Why does road adoption sometimes get delayed?
A: Sometimes road adoption is delayed by the following causes:

  • the developer starts building the road before entering into the section 38 agreement
  • the developer tries to vary the standard terms of the County 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 County Council's standards
  • the sewerage authority, normally Thames Water, has not adopted the sewers under the new road
  • the road is finished but there are outstanding construction defects, often called 'snags', which the developer needs to fix. Snags can include things like defective street lights, potholes, overgrown verges, broken drain covers.

Q: How can I find out more information about a new road to be adopted by the County Council?
A: For further information about the adoption of new roads built by developers, please contact:

Transport Development Planning
Surrey County Council
3rd Floor
Quadrant Court
35 Guildford Road
GU22 7QQ

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