Privately maintained, the law on the maintenance and adoption of private roads can be complex. Briefly, an unadopted road is a road or street not maintainable at public expense, which means they’ve not been brought under the wing of a local council to be maintained alongside the rest of the highway network.
These unadopted roads can have no street lighting, drainage or road surfacing and can fall into serious disrepair with related problems arising i.e., flooding. They also pose problems for emergency services with access issues for ambulances and fire engines.
As it stands, there is little reliable, managed information available and it is difficult to quantify the extent of unadopted roads, and the cost of remediation. A Taskforce was set up in 2018 at the request of the Welsh Minister for Economy and Transport to see what could be done to bring such roads to a consistent adoptable standard. GeoPlace, recognised world-wide as an established expert in managing addressing and street data, was brought in to help identify and quantify the number of unadopted roads in Wales
Even though there is no uniform method in which Welsh street data on unadopted roads is collected and recorded, GeoPlace’s contribution was found to contain information that may have the potential to provide the basis for a comprehensive database in the future, if properly developed.
By undertaking primary research via a consultation exercise, GeoPlace formulated findings that were verified by a subset of local highway authorities and included in an official report for the Welsh government. The process for this began with GeoPlace using the street data supplied by the Welsh Local highway authorities within the National Street Gazetteer (NSG) to identify all streets not recorded as maintainable at public expense.
They then went even further by using spatial matching techniques to identify the streets from Ordnance Survey MasterMap Highways Network which may not have been included by Welsh local authorities to date – another indicator of how the depth of information that GeoPlace has access to support innovation across the country.
To ensure the most informative and accurate results GeoPlace used the Unique Property Reference Number (UPRN) from AddressBase to identify whether properties were present and accessed by the streets. Alongside a complete overview, two filtered, unadopted street networks were created using the attribution held within both Ordnance Survey MasterMap Highways Network and NSG which were felt may better represent the extent of unadopted roads. As part of this process, GeoPlace and Welsh Government relied on local knowledge to test and sense check the data through six different authorities. In total and without filtering, they identified 148,006 streets with a total length of 19,635 km from the OSMM Highways Network.
The Product and Data Development Manager at GeoPlace, Richard Groombridge commented: “This process let us get a full picture of the entire potential unadopted street network in Wales and we used the outputs to support discussions with the Welsh government and local authorities. Although the challenges are complex and significant, this is a matter that is worth addressing. Identifying common goals gave us good foundations for the collaborative discussions that ensued. Overall, the project has been an excellent example of a partnership between the Welsh government, local authorities and GeoPlace”.
It is clear that more work is required to tackle the implications around unadopted roads in Wales but GeoPlace’s work in providing a consistent dataset that Welsh authorities can now use for review is certainly a step in the right direction to help ensure they have a complete network.