Swarland’s Roads

Swarland’s Roads

Unadopted Roads in Swarland – June 2023

Swarland was laid-out as a planned village, similar to a Land Settlement scheme, in the 1930s. The various houses and facilities were connected by a network of unmetalled carriageways, leading from the public highways. Most of the houses were located on one-acre smallholdings. In about 1950 the houses and other facilities were sold individually, mostly to their occupants, and the estate company was dissolved, with no provision being made for the ownership of or responsibility for the roads.

From the 1970s onwards, property owners have sold their smallholdings for low-density residential development. At the same time, the local planning and highways authorities have worked together to impose conditions on planning permissions, requiring builders/residents to upgrade the sections of road on their frontage to adoptable standard. This has happened in some, but not all, instances. As a result, there is a mix of adopted and unadopted roads, as follows:

  1. Some roads have been fully made-up and adopted;
  2. Some sections of other roads were made-up to adoptable standard as long as 30 years ago, but they have not yet been adopted because the highway authority was waiting for some further sections to be made-up (which they still have not been). In some instances, in the 1990s, the highway authority assured new home-buyers that adoption would be taking place in the near-future;
  3. Some sections were required to be made-up, but the builder/resident failed to complete the work, and the planning and highways authorities failed to enforce the condition. The most recent example was in 2020 at Admiral Close/Kenmore Road;
  4. Some developments were granted consent, but the planning authority failed to include a condition relating to the road frontage,
  5. It is also possible that some developments did pay a bond to the local authority to pay for the road to be made-up, which the authority has failed to implement.

For more than 50 years, the roads were in effect ‘ownerless’ and, by default, in the care of the Treasury Solicitor. Then during the 2000’s the County Council acquired their freehold ownership. This ownership did not guarantee any particular standard of maintenance or condition, unlike an adopted highway. Therefore, on two occasions, the Parish Council requested that Northumberland County Council (NCC) take action to bring all of the remaining roads to an adoptable standard, as part of the Local Transport Plan. The response from the highways authority was to deflect the problem to the planning department, with an expectation that the granting of further planning permissions for residential development in the area could include conditions requiring the making-up to adoptable standard of any outstanding length of unadopted road. Clearly, with most of the area already developed, this was impracticable.

Then, in Autumn 2021, at the request of the Parish Council, the NCC Interim Executive Director of Planning and Local Services investigated the situation and, among other matters, brought to light a hitherto unseen document Swarland Backroads Report 2006. This outlines a decision made by the County Council’s Director of Finance and Property to dedicate all of the roads as highways and to improve (and subsequently maintain) them to an adoptable standard.

NCC has now reiterated its commitment to the physical improvement and maintenance of these roads. However, there are complications relating to their narrowness, and encroachment in places by adjacent residential properties which make it almost impossible to achieve adoptable standards. Currently, NCC are considering how best to resolve this dilemma. It seems likely that the solution will be to improve and maintain the roads without actually adopting them. This work would likely be undertaken in phases, spread over several years.

Shown here is a plan of the area showing NCC ownership of roads and those that they have adopted Swarland Road Ownership.