The adoption status of a road is an important consideration for homebuyers. When a local council adopts a road, they maintain the road surface, pavement, and any grass verges. For unadopted roads, homeowners are responsible for maintenance.
Under the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984, if a private road is built to the consented standard, the builder can apply to the council to add it to their list of public roads within 12 months of completion. However, many roads remain unadopted long-term despite this process.
Obtaining Consent for unadopted road
Constructing a new road requires planning permission and a separate road construction consent (RCC). The RCC is a technical approval confirming the road will be built to the council’s standards for layout, drainage, lighting etc. If the road meets the RCC requirements, the council can later adopt it.
Applying for Adoption
Once built, the developer applies for adoption. This involves submitting as-built drawings and entering a 12-month maintenance period where the council inspects the road. If no defects appear over 12 months, the council will recommend adding the road to the adopted list.
Many developers struggle to get sign-off despite efforts to meet standards. Under-resourced councils are not rushing to take on liability.
Achieving Public road Adoption
Developers must strictly build to RCC standards and provide all necessary certificates to the council. Consider phased adoption by sections rather than waiting until project completion. This reduces homeowner liability sooner.
Private Road Adoption
Councils can adopt private roads if they meet standards. A majority of homeowners on the road must request adoption. The council will inspect and require upgrades if necessary before adoption.
As the road authority, the local council has certain statutory obligations when it comes to roads and footpaths. For adopted roads, the local authority is responsible for maintaining the road surface, any footways or pavements, and road drainage. However, for private or unadopted roads, the frontagers or homeowners who live adjacent to the road typically inherit maintenance duties. This is why it is advantageous for developers to work closely with local authorities and meet all required standards during road construction, so that the council will agree to eventual adoption. This transfers liability from individual frontagers to the larger and better-resourced local authority, who can more effectively manage factors like road drainage across their entire jurisdiction. Clear communication and compliance helps facilitate adoption and alignment between developers and local councils on road maintenance responsibilities.