Report potholes

also known as: Potholes, Road maintenance.

Potholes are defined as a defect in the highway surface, which is surrounded by surfacing material on all sides. They can develop over short periods of time and depending on the size, depth and location there will be a greater or lesser risk to the general public. The response of the County Council will be dependent on the severity of the reported defect.

Please click below to report a problem to us:5Report a pothole or road maintenance problem here

Or you can contact us here.

The A1, A19 and A69 within Northumberland are the responsibility of the Highways Agency. Report potholes on these roads by calling them on 0300 123 5000 or emailing

What happens after you report a problem?

If the issue is on one of our roads, then we will temporarily repair the defect within 24 hours, if considered to represent a serious risk to road users.

Other potholes that have been determined as to not represent an immediate hazard but still have safety implications will be repaired within 14 or 28 days, depending on the associated risk to the road user.

Please click here to view our Transport Asset Management Plan policy and strategy

Pothole progress Work continues to improve road network

Thousands of potholes are being cleared in Northumberland each month as we continue work to improve the road network.

Following a pledge in winter 2013/14 to clear the long-running backlog of potholes, teams of council staff successfully filled in the outstanding repairs of 12,213 potholes by the end of June 2014 – a figure which stood at more than 32,000 in May 2013.

The ‘potholeometer’ shows the number of potholes identified and the numbers repaired to date.


Between April 2014 and May 2015 we repaired 78,358 potholes.


In January 2015 we reported that there were just over 2,600 outstanding pothole repairs, but through the significant work we have undertaken this has been reduced to 153 (at 31 May).


This information was last updated on:

18 August 2015


Why do the County Council make temporary repairs to potholes rather than just permanently fixing them first time? How long does it take them to come and fix a pothole? Can you sue the council if you have an accident in one? These and many other questions are answered below, exploding myths and giving you the real facts behind pothole-fixing.

Question 1: “Why are some potholes repaired temporarily, which soon open up again and require a return visit to re-do them? Wouldn’t it be cheaper and safer just to repair them properly the first time?”

This is a common and understandable view, but one with several explanations. First of all, 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 a good deal of time and, depending on their location, may require temporary traffic lights to be brought in or a road closure. This requires more equipment, staff and planning; particularly at times when the resource isn’t available immediately – perhaps because the crews covering that area are on gritting duty or have more urgent potholes to fix – a temporary repair is still better than leaving it.

Thirdly, the pothole, or cluster of them, may actually be symptomatic of a more general, underlying problem on the stretch of road, requiring further investigation and potential resurfacing of an entire section. Again, this is much larger job which cannot be done on the spot, so we’ll ensure the holes are temporarily filled to keep the area safe in the meantime.

Question 2: “There’s a pothole on a road near me that has been there for ages – how long do you take to fix them?”

First of all, do you know if it’s actually been reported? Whilst we do have highways officers out on the roads, they can’t check every mile of our county every day, so we rely on people letting us know when a pothole has appeared. Once we become aware of a pothole, we quickly go out to inspect it. All potholes are then repaired in a priority order, so what we’re assessing with each one is:

How large is it?

Clearly we would try and prioritise the worst defects first. Our policy remains that we fix all potholes deemed “emergency/urgent” (i.e. at least 40mm in depth and 300mm across) within 24 hours; however given the recent severe weather and pothole backlog, this can unfortunately no longer be guaranteed. We will continue to endeavour to fix any emergency works as quickly as we can, and within 24 hours if possible, but regrettably we cannot give a guaranteed timescale.

How busy is the road it’s on?

Naturally, we must prioritise potholes which are likely to affect many vehicles on well-used roads rather than lower-used traffic routes and side-streets.

What is the road’s speed limit?

A pothole will be more dangerous to vehicles at a higher speed, so again we prioritise such roads.

Whereabouts on the road is it? If a pothole is more of a rut in the verge, or around the centre line of the road, it will of course be a lower priority than one which is in the path of a vehicle’s wheels.

Question 3: “Is the County Council responsible for damage to vehicles or personal injury as a result of potholes? Can I sue the council?”

No, not usually. We are only potentially liable to pay for damage to vehicles or personal injury if we have been negligent. We are not expected to keep roads free of potholes at all times. Unfortunately, when conditions are severe, potholes will be more common. Road users must therefore be on the look out and take greater care during or after severe weather.

Question 4: “What causes potholes?

Potholes are created by water seeping through the road surface via cracks caused by traffic. As temperatures plummet, the water frees 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 vehicle 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.

Question 5: “Does a pothole have to reach a certain size before you’ll fix it”?

Naturally, we must prioritise larger potholes, but other factors such as their position in the road, amount of traffic affected and degree of visibility are also taken into consideration. As a general rule though, potholes which present the greatest danger will be attended to first.

We inspect every adopted highway on a regular basis. Any area of road or pavement which the inspector thinks is or may become an imminent danger to road users or a pedestrian is noted and a repair arranged.

If during this inspection any streets are judged to need more extensive treatment they are listed and their condition is further assessed at a later date.

Each year we carry out surveys to assess the condition of the roads and pavements, in accordance with national standards. This then provides us with the information needed to draw up the Council's annual structural maintenance programme.

The Council has a responsibility to keep the roads and footpaths safe to use.

The Council arranges grass cutting in-house or via external contractors. Funding is allocated annually through the routine highways maintenance budget to ensure that grass cutting is continued throughout the growing season.

In rural areas, a number of grass verges have rare or endangered species of flora/fauna and here the grass cutting regime is tailored to suit, to help promote and encourage biodiversity.

The Highway Authority has a duty to protect public rights on the highway network ensuring that they are free from nuisance, dangerous obstructions, unlawful closure, interference and encroachment. Some examples are given below:

  • Builders' skips
  • Scaffolding/hoardings
  • Builders materials
  • Temporary works including traffic lights
  • Overhanging tree branches, hedges
  • Mud/Debris on the road
  • Mixing concrete/mortar on the highway
  • Unauthorised vendors/traders
  • Encroachment of highway boundaries
  • Discharge of water onto the highway
  • Blocking "Rights of Way"
  • Plants and Bushes
  • Illegal Signs

Where there is clear evidence that organisations or individuals may be breaching the law relating to highways, it is our intention to give informal advice without causing unnecessary expense or duress. However, firm action will be taken against those who disregard the law.