Protecting roads, pavements & verges

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

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

Report a pothole or road damage

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 National Highways, not the council. Report potholes on these roads by contacting the National Highways help centre or emailing 
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. 

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. 


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

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. 
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. 

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. 

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. 

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. They can also investigate if you’re not sure where the blockage is. 

 Customer service: 0345 733 5566 
Emergency contact number: 0800 393084 

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  
Customer service: 0345 733 5566 
Emergency: 0800 393084 

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. 

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. 


A dropped kerb allows vehicles to cross the pavement from the road to a driveway.

Vehicular footway crossings can be built either by the Council or by a private contractor working to the Council's specification.

The construction of a vehicle crossing does not give the occupier of the premises any particular rights, except to drive across the footway to gain access to his / her property with a private or light goods motor car, the crossing itself remains part of the public highway.

From the date that the Council accepts the completed crossing, we will assume responsibility for its maintenance at no cost to the occupier, apart from any damage caused by illegal use by heavy vehicles, etc.

Permission and how to apply

In all cases you must get permission from the Highways and Infrastructure department.

To apply and for more information, contact the Council on Fix My Street or contact us on 0345 600 6400 

Planning permission is not usually required for such work, but will be if the property involved:
  • is on a classified road
  • is a listed building
  • is other than a house for a single family, such as a flat, maisonette, commercial or industrial premises
  • If you build a footway crossing without getting the permissions mentioned above, you may not be able to sell your property in the future.

Permitted types of vehicles

A domestic vehicle crossing may only be used by a private light goods or similar vehicle. It may not be used by heavy goods vehicles or mechanical equipment.

If a delivery, such as a skip, is made into the property, and in doing so the delivery damages the crossing, any repairs will be the responsibility of the occupier.

Size of the crossing

The width of a standard single access crossing is 2.5 metres to the rear of the public footway. This increases to 5.4 metres at the roadside kerb line, comprising of 4 x dropper kerbs, with 0.9m transition kerbs either side.

Double width driveways, will increase the access width at the rear of footway to 5 metres. The maximum width of access at the roadside kerb line will be 8.1 metres, comprising of 7 x dropper kerbs, with transition kerbs either side.

Shared access

Where the occupiers of two adjoining properties share a driveway, and wish to build a double width crossing to serve the two sites, one occupier should act on behalf of both parties.

Parking within your property

Your application will not be approved unless you are able to provide a suitable parking area within your property, this must be at least 4.8 metres long, measured from the front of your house to the boundary of your property and 2.4 metres wide. There must be enough space around this area for pedestrian access. If the width of your property is more than 8m these conditions may not apply.

There may be instances where the above criteria are not met. In such cases approval may be given, subject to a site inspection by a Highway Inspector. The Highway Inspectors decision as to whether the application will be approved or refused is final.

No part of a vehicle parked within your property may project on to or over the highway. The crossing may not be used as a parking area and no part of it is exempted for the purpose of footway parking.


The parking area within your property must be built so that water does not drain from it across the footway. Suitable drainage must be provided within the boundaries of your property.

Obstacles to construction

If the proposed position of the access is obstructed by a road sign, lamp post, or tree, etc. the location should be altered to avoid the obstacle. If this is not feasible, a decision will have to be made by the relevant section as to whether the item should be removed or relocated.

If a statutory authority is required to carry out work by relocating a fire hydrant, telegraph pole etc. any charges for such work will be the responsibility of the applicant, who will be required to produce written proof of approval by the authority before a crossing can be built.

If an applicant wishes the crossing to be placed in a location that requires the relocation of a lamp post, tree or similar item, which would not otherwise be necessary, he / she will be required to pay the full cost of relocation.

Alterations to your vehicle crossover

The Council may need to alter the layout of your vehicle crossover at any time, due to modifications in the footway or verge. Every effort will be made to maintain access to your property and the occupier of premises so affected will be given adequate notice of such works.

If you want to change the crossover yourself, you must get permission from the Highways and Infrastructure department: 0345 600 6400 or use fix my street.


Any application for the construction of a domestic crossing may be refused or modified on the grounds of safety. The applicant must ensure that adequate sight lines are maintained to allow safe access to their property.

Gates across vehicle entrance

Gates fitted across the vehicle entrance to your property may in no circumstances open outwards across the footpath or carriageway ( Highways Act 1980 - Section 153).