“It’s a real war, right outside your front door”

(Title Image: Eastern Daily Press)

The Issue

Unadopted roads are roads that aren’t maintained by a local authority.

It’s usually down to the owners of property along an unadopted road to maintain it. Leaving roads unadopted is increasingly common on new housing developments, though some may also be very old roads on former private (aristocratic) estates. Buying a home on an unadopted road may, therefore, come with a cost or inconvenience the buyer may not have realised.

This is obviously an issue many AMs have come across so there were a lot of speakers in this latest backbench debate – I’ve had to cut some contributions/contributors due to repetition.

The Motion

The Senedd:

  • Notes the number of roads in Wales which are unadopted, and therefore not maintained by a local authority.
  • Notes that a number of developers have not built roads on new estates to adoptable standards and that many of these roads remain unadopted and in a bad state of repair for a number of years.
  • Recognises that house buyers often face having to invest significant sums of money in order to bring roads up to the local authority’s adoptable standard.
  • Calls on the Welsh Government to establish a taskforce, to include local authorities, the legal profession, developers etc. with a view to improving road adoption process.
  • Seeks to develop a Wales-wide programme to reduce the number of unadopted roads.

Key Points

Dai Lloyd AM (Plaid, South Wales West)
For (the motion): It’s an ancient problem; let’s solve it once and for all.

  • One of his first pieces of casework after becoming a Swansea councillor was an unadopted road in Waunarlwydd that was “unusable”.
  • People living on unadopted roads will get no help from their local council even if they pay full Council Tax.
  • There’s no requirement to maintain a register of unadopted roads.
  • People living on new estates with unadopted roads are forced into paying annual management fees on top of other bills.
  • Policy options could include: law changes so more roads are adopted, national or regional funding for councils to adopt them, interest-free loans to enable householders to organise the work themselves.

Mike Hedges AM (Lab, Swansea East)
For: It catches out new homeowners, particularly on new estates.

  • Some of the biggest construction companies are leaving roads unadopted on new developments.
  • There are a complicated set of rules that need to be followed in order for a road to be adopted, mainly on drainage, surface thickness and lighting.
  • Residents on new estates may see a tarmac road and think it’s adopted, but they won’t know if it meets the requirements or not; when things like street lights no longer work they’ll go to the council who’ll tell them “it’s not our responsibility”.
  • All roads on new estates should be built to adoptable standard.

David Melding AM (Con, South Wales Central)
For: It’s dodgy.

  • It’s “astonishing” developers can’t be more closely regulated on this.
  • We’re already facing affordability issues with housing, but maintenance charges add problems as most people wouldn’t think to check if their street is adopted or not.
  • Some of the charges are “onerous”, are not entirely related to the condition of a road and are similar to leasehold practices (recent debate on that here).

Lynne Neagle AM (Lab, Torfaen)
For: It’s a long-standing problem.

  • She’s had a steady stream of complaints about unadopted roads in her 19 years as an AM.
  • Some unadopted roads in her area are in such a bad state on rainy days ducks can live in the potholes.
  • Councils don’t have the money to solve the problem themselves, so she welcomes bringing all interested parties together to address the problem.

David Rowlands AM (UKIP, South Wales East)
For: Force developers to change.

  • Councils should make it a planning condition for new developments that roads be of an adoptable standard.
  • Only the Welsh Government may have the necessary funds to carry out these repairs; do they have the will to do so?

Nick Ramsay AM (Con, Monmouth)
For: We need to know where these roads are.

  • Regular health and safety inspections aren’t being undertaken to ensure unadopted roads are safe or suitable for emergency vehicles – he once worked on a case where an ambulance was stuck in a pothole.
  • Developers “save thousands” by dodging legal agreements that pass control to local authorities.
  • We need up to date statistics.

Hefin David AM (Lab, Caerphilly)
For: Developers and estate management companies are holding residents at ransom.

  • The difference between the quality of roads on estates built in the 1970s and more recently is “striking”; 1970s estates are far superior, modern estates see houses “squashed in”.
  • Developers are using housing shortages to their advantage and have all the power in these circumstances.
  • In Caerphilly, there’s only one unadopted private street, yet 15 unadopted estates.
  • Estate management fees are “extortionate” and hold residents to ransom. When residents complain they get curt/rude replies or are even blackmailed.

Darren Millar AM (Con, Clwyd West)
For: The costs of bringing roads up to scratch are enormous.

  • Conwy Council gave residents of Sandy Cove in Kinmel Bay (built in the 1930s) a £3million estimate for how much it would cost to bring roads up to adoptable standard.
  • All unadopted roads need to be retrospectively adopted.
  • Developers use “private driveways” to get around road standards; they look attractive and brick-like but wear away after 4-5 years.

Vikki Howells AM (Lab, Cynon Valley)
For: It’s a rip-off.

  • Residents on a new estate of “executive homes” by a big developer in her constituency face damaged cars and personal injuries as a result of unfinished or unadopted roads.
  • The developer has also failed to deliver broadband infrastructure, playgrounds, pumping station and landscaping yet gave £500million bonuses to their top bosses (Persimmon).

Welsh Government Response

Economy & Infrastructure Secretary, Ken Skates (Lab, Clwyd South)

  • The Welsh Government are only responsible for motorways and trunk roads; they have no jurisdiction over streets and other roads as they’re the responsibility of local councils but he understood the frustration people feel.
  • He lives on an estate with unadopted roads. A management company was set up with other residents; he was shocked by some of the stories AMs gave of intimidation and abuse by private estate management companies.
  • He’s asked officials to start talks with the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) to establish a taskforce to look at unadopted roads and come up with recommendations to address the issue.


The motion was unanimously approved.

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