Potholes – what can be done about them?

21 March 2018

Local road deterioration represents a serious risk to the safety of users.

“Thousands of miles of UK roads in poor condition”, reports BBC, but what can road users do about it?

Following the 'Beast from the East' and the recent cold weather, some local roads have deteriorated to the point that they represent a serious risk to the safety of users. In particular, deep potholes are causing damage to vehicles and injuries to cyclists.

Many people do not realise that they, as users of the road, can take action against the Highway Authority. In particular, if potholes along a public highway render the road unsafe for cyclists or passing vehicles, a notice can be served on the Highway Authority, requiring it to repair the road. Such a notice can be served under section 56 of the Highways Act 1980.

If the Highway Authority accepts that the road in question is a public highway which it is liable to maintain, it must put the road back into good repair. If the Authority fails to do so, it is possible to apply to a magistrates' court for an order compelling it to do so. This is because the Highway Authority has a duty to maintain public highways. This duty requires the Highway Authority to keep roads safe to use, i.e. reasonably passable without being dangerous. A deep pothole is very likely to render the highway dangerous for cyclists and vehicles – the BBC report, for example, refers to a cyclist who hit a pothole and suffered a bleed on the brain as a result. The lack of funding is not a defence available to the Highway Authority.

We have experience issuing section 56 notices upon Highway Authorities and have helped numerous clients to get their roads repaired. If a road that you use has a dangerously deep pothole, please contact Laura Tanguay or another member of Birketts' Property Litigation Team for further information about how we might be able to assist. Law covered as at March 2018.