You Ask, We Answer

We’re technical experts in the complex and ever-changing world of civil and structural engineering design and technical approval.

Can an adopting organisation refuse to accept roads and drainage for adoption?

Our answer is based on the Link team’s collective experience, which includes involvement in hundreds of projects of varying scales from inception through to construction on site and ultimate adoption of infrastructure assets across the UK over the past 15 years.

On multiple occasions we’ve experienced highway authorities and water companies refusing to accept infrastructure for adoption. So whilst our client may have decided to offer their assets for adoption, it is possible for their application to be refused should it be deemed that the network is not of sufficient benefit to the public highway or drainage authority.

This is a bit more straight forward in respect to the water companies as the requirement for an asset being acceptable for adoption is defined within the Water Industry Act 1991 as being any drain which serves more than one user, which could just be the adoptable highway and one dwelling. In respect to the highways, the balance on this is less clearly defined within the Highways Act 1980 but typically most residential sites and large commercial sites qualify as it can be demonstrated that multiple users shall benefit from using the proposed highway. Should you wish to have your highways adopted we would suggest early engagement with the highway authority is undertaken.

A further reason to refuse adoption is that the works have not be installed to the appropriate standard. As such both the highway authority and water company will not enter into an adoption agreement until the proposed designs have been technically vetted by them and technical approval has been issued. Once the agreement is in place the works are then inspected during construction to ensure that the works are constructed as per the approved drawings. Following completion of the works the road infrastructure can be adopted following completion of a maintenance period for the highways. A road infrastructure maintenance period is typically 12 months in length and usually ties in with when the drainage network has over 51% of its expected flows and the water company can be reasonably asked to adopt it.

In addition to the above, all road safety issues will need to be addressed and all payments will need to have been made to the highway authority or water company to allow for each asset to be adopted.

Where works have been constructed without following the above process, they can still be adopted through Section 102 of the Water Industry Act and Section 37 of the Highways Act. In order for adoption to occur under either of these mechanisms, the developer shall need to demonstrate to the adopting authority that the works have been constructed to the required standard and that it would be beneficial to the public for them to be adopted. Should the adopting authority not be satisfied with the quality of the works further works may be requested in order to bring them up to the required standard; these would need to be undertaken at the developers expense.

If you have any questions regarding a project where adoption has been refused, please contact us at and we would be more than happy to provide you with some site specific advice.

Apr 19, 2022