Private (or unadopted) streets are those that are not maintained at public expense. A Department for Transport survey in 1972 found that there were approximately 40 000 unadopted streets in England and Wales with the current number thought to be around the same.

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Councils are under no obligation to carry out repairs on private streets, even if the public has a right of access.

There are two types of private streets:

  • those on new developments, such as housing estates.
  • those which have existed for a long time; often since the nineteenth century.

For the latter many people will picture a gated community or a rural mansion. This is arguably misleading, as many of these streets are a legacy of the coal mining industry in regions such as south Wales, south Derbyshire and the North East.

Private streets can be adopted by the relevant local authority if they are brought up to the council’s adoption standard which may include having to improve the pavements, kerbs or lighting. The Department for Transport has produced an Advice Note which gives best practice on road adoption for all those involved in the development and purchase of homes.

Advantages

Depending on the particular area, advantages can include the possibility of less traffic, more security, more control over the surroundings and greater community spirit.

Disadvantages and responsibilities

For most unadopted streets the duty to maintain them falls to the owners of the property fronting that part of the road. This can cause problems when residents of a private street disagree on the cost of maintenance.

If repairs are not made, private roads can fall into serious disrepair, with related problems arising (i.e. flooding). Residents will also need to organise insurance cover, as large bills can ensue if accidents occur, and a claim is issued. It should also be noted that residents of unadopted streets will often still need to pay full council tax.

Local authorities have discretionary powers to improve the standard of a private street at any time and to contribute to the cost, but some choose not to exercise these powers.

Further resources

Contact our library team for further information.


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