Protecting roads, pavements & verges

Protecting roads, pavements & verges

Here you will find information about how the council deals with potholes and roads maintenance.

Report potholes & damage to roads

Here you will find out how to report potholes and road maintenance problems on our highways.

Report a pothole or road damage

What are potholes?
Potholes are defects in the highway surface, which are surrounded by surfacing material on all sides. They can develop suddenly and our response depends on the size, depth and location of the pothole, and the risk it presents to the public.

The A1, A19 and A69 are the responsibility of Highways England, not the council. Report potholes on these roads by calling them on 0300 123 5000 or emailing info@highwaysengland.co.uk

We look after the rest of Northumberland’s highways – otherwise known as the roads, pavements and grass verges. Use the online form if you spot a damaged surface on one of our roads.
What happens when a problem is highlighted?
If we find damage on one of our roads that is considered a serious risk to road users, we will repair the defect within 24 hours. Other potholes, which aren’t a serious risk, will be repaired within 14 or 28 days.

We regularly inspect and maintain all our roads, pavements and grass verges to make sure they’re safe and accessible. Reports from the public are also vital in maintaining our roads effectively, because damage and potholes can appear at any time.
Potholes FAQs
What causes potholes?
Potholes are created by water seeping through the road surface via cracks caused by traffic. As temperatures plummet, the water freezes and expands as ice, which pushes the bitmac upwards like a bubble and ruptures the surface.

When the ice melts, it then leaves a void below the surface, which caves in under the stress of vehicles and forms a pothole. Snow and ice are the worst conditions for exacerbating existing road defects, due to the repetition of this freeze-thaw process. Hot temperatures can also be to blame, as heat can widen the cracks.
 
Why are some potholes repaired temporarily, which soon open again, requiring a return visit to re-do?
There are many reasons. For instance, if road conditions are wet or icy a permanent repair wouldn’t actually work. The hot bitumen would instantly cool before adequate compaction could be achieved and the ice or water would also prevent the repair bonding to the existing road.

Secondly, permanent repairs take time. There may be larger underlying problems that take time to solve, extra staff and equipment may be needed and roads may have to be closed. A swift temporary repair is often the best solution while we prepare to fix the problem permanently.
 
There’s a pothole on a road near me that has been there for ages. How long do you take to fix them?
Has the pothole been reported yet? Our inspections are regular but they can’t cover every road all of the time, so we rely on reports from the public too. Once a pothole is reported, we inspect the area and repair the damage as quickly as possible.

This depends on how dangerous the damage is and how well used the road is. Naturally we prioritise potholes that present a serious risk to the public and potholes on the busiest roads.

Is the county council responsible for damage to vehicles or personal injury as a result of potholes? Can I sue the council?
We are only potentially liable to pay for damage to vehicles or personal injury if we have been negligent. We’re not expected to keep roads free from potholes at all times. Unfortunately, when conditions are severe, potholes are more common. The best thing to do is be prepared and take greater care during and after extreme weather.

Maintaining roads & pavements

Find out how to report general maintenance issues with the highways, including obstructions, broken pavements, road gully maintenance and drains.

Obstructions on roads and pavements
If a pavement or road is blocked, let us know. There are lots of ways routes can be obstructed - a skip or an advertising board, overhanging tree branches, mud or debris on the road, or even poorly placed temporary roadworks. 

You can also use this form to report if pedestrians are at risk because roadworks aren’t fenced off. We will work with the people responsible to remove the obstacle. In serious cases, which endanger the public or break the law, legal action can be taken if the obstruction continues.

Please note: if a vehicle is causing the obstruction - contact the police. We have no power to enforce the law on illegally parked vehicles unless there is a line or a sign that prohibits parking.

For guidance notes about unauthorised obstructions on pavements and roads, click the link below:
Broken pavements
We regularly inspect pavements and carry out reactive and planned repairs. We also respond to reports from the public and repair this damage as quickly as possible.
Road gullies
A road gully is a large pot covered by a metal grid and is usually found at the edge of a road. It’s used to drain water off the paved surface into a piped system or roadside ditch. Blocked gullies are one of the reasons why water on the highway may not drain away.

Gullies in public areas are maintained by the council and are cleaned regularly. Gullies on private land must be looked after by landowners.
Drainage in private houses
Northumbrian Water now looks after all drains and sewers in Northumberland connected to the public sewerage system. You are responsible for the section of pipe that’s within the boundaries of your property and which serves your property only.

If a section of pipe that is shared or is outside your property’s boundary gets blocked, contact Northumbrian Water on 0845 717 1100. They can also investigate if you’re not sure where the blockage is.
 
Will the council clear or repair drains?
Northumberland County Council is not responsible for clearing drains on private or commercial premises. You can contact a private drainage company who will come and clear the blockage. Many companies advertise in the Yellow Pages.

You should always confirm their charges and agree exactly what they will do before authorising them to do the work. If you’re a council tenant, contact your housing agency.
 
One of the pipes that supplies my house is blocked, but the blockage is in my neighbour’s property. What can I do?
Contact Northumbrian Water on 0845 7171100.
 
Why does my council tax not cover the maintenance of my drains?
We don’t own any drains or sewers, except those serving our own premises. We are responsible for highway drainage, but this is separate from buildings.
Roads - enforcement
The council is responsible for keeping public rights of way safe, accessible and clearly marked. We look after all Northumberland’s highways – the roads, footpaths and verges.

Our officers monitor the highways to make sure they are properly maintained and work with countryside landowners to make sure rural footpaths, stiles, etc. are safe and accessible. We also co-ordinate roadworks on our highways, making sure they cause as little disruption as possible.

If we find routes are obstructed or unsafe, we’ll work with the people responsible to resolve the situation. In most cases this is all that’s needed, but we can take formal legal action if issues persist.