Road adoption is a term used to describe the council taking ownership of a 'private street'.
A 'private street' is a road which is not maintained at public expense. This means that the council, as the highway authority, is under no obligation to carry out repairs or cleansing to the street, even though it could be a public right of way to which highway and traffic law can be applied.
Private streets may often be unpaved, without kerbs, footways, drainage and lighting (or in some cases) any of these features, and the running surface is probably in a bad condition.
Owners of properties fronting private streets should particularly note that liability for meeting claims for accident or injury damage resulting from the condition of the private street would be expected to rest with the owners of properties abutting the street.
Under the provisions of Sections 205 to 218 of the Highways Act 1980 (the Private Street Works Code), the Council as Highway Authority, may resolve to make up a Private Street to "adoptable standards" by providing any or all of the missing features, by improving the standard of any existing features, and subsequently maintain the street as adopted highway.
Any such improvements will have to be at the abutting property owners or frontagers expense. A majority of the frontagers in a Private Street will have to indicate their willingness to bear their portion of the costs of a scheme to improve a street to "adoptable standards" before it can be considered for implementation. Because the process can be complex the Council has prepared some guidance notes for works under the Private Street Works Code.