also known as: Potholes.
The County Council is responsible for maintaining adopted non-trunk roads in Northumberland. This includes planned maintenance such as road resurfacing, reconstruction and gully cleaning, as well as ad-hoc repairs to potholes and other defects.
Northumberland County Council
Northumberland County Council carries out planned inspections of
all adopted roads with additional ad-hoc inspections being
undertaken following reports of damage.
Any repairs considered necessary are carried out within
timescales determined by risk assessment, based on the type of
road, the amount of traffic using the road and the nature and
extent of the defect.
The Highway Agency
The Highways Agency look after trunk roads, that is the A1, A19
and A69, through a range of partnerships with service providers,
namely AONE and RoadLink.
Reporting a problem
Northumberland County Council has a statutory
duty to maintain adopted roads and paths (the Highway) within the
County. Maintenance of the highway includes making safe potentially
dangerous defect such as potholes.
Potholes are defined as a defect in the highway surface, which
is surrounded by surfacing material on all sides. Edge damage
generally occurs on uncurbed rural roads and is generally caused by
vehicles overrunning the verge.
Potholes 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.
Following a successful trial, the council has bought two
Jetpatchers – self contained units that carry all the necessary
equipment and materials to repair potholes.The Jetpatcher has
proven to be a cost effective alternative to conventional temporary
repair fix methods, improving productivity by 60%.
How does it work?
Should the site in question be within an adopted highway, staff
at the local highways office will arrange for works to make safe
the potentially dangerous site. The County Council has a number of
Area Maintenance Teams who will temporarily repair the defect
normally 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.
How do I report a pothole?
There are many ways to report a pothole or seek advice and
a pothole or road maintenance problem
Both the A1 and A19 within Northumberland are the responsibility
of the Highways Agency. We do not maintain these roads. You can
contact the highways agency as follows:
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
- 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.