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the county council not

Kettering borough council "in the original" section

Therefore, the default position is that county councils can apply very little effective pressure to get developers of new residential housing development to comply, meaning that roads, highways and street lighting will not, in many cases, be brought up to adoptable standards until the entire development is complete. For many large-scale housing developments, that could take five, 10 or 15 years. Effectively, the ineffectiveness of the legislation is condemning hundreds of thousands of people in new houses up and down the country to live with substandard roads, pavements and street lighting.

I have had a lot of correspondence from Mawsley residents on the issue. One e-mail came from Emma Brown who, in her own time, voluntarily edits the newsletter that goes around the village. She states:

Another resident of Mawsley, Clare Farthing, sent me an e-mail saying:

She also says:

Stephen Pound: From whom would his constituents claim compensation?

Mr. Hollobone: The hon. Gentleman always asks very good questions. I would imagine it would be the developers, because-

Stephen Pound: They may have gone.

Mr. Hollobone: They may have gone, or have gone bust. Certainly, the county council would not be liable, because it has not adopted the roads. In many cases, there would effectively be no redress for what could be some very serious injuries.

I have given the Minister some photographs of the roads in Mawsley village, which show the extent of the problem. Unadopted roads on new estates do not have a top surface-in many cases, neither do the pavements-so the kerbs are very high compared to normal residential areas. That is a very real problem for young mums with buggies or prams and for the elderly, who are more at risk of tripping over. It can also cause damage to vehicles, if they scrape the side of the kerb.

Mr. Bone: I declare an interest as I lived on such an estate, with the raised kerbs, with a young child. I was told that the reason that the roads were not being adopted was not the developer's fault, but that of Anglian Water, because it had not done the sewerage. In his remaining time, perhaps my hon. Friend could develop that important issue.

Mr. Hollobone: Sewerage is indeed a fascinating subject, and I am sure that many hon. Members might think of applying for a separate Adjournment debate on it. It involves section 104 of the relevant Act and is covered by different legislation. As usual, my hon. Friend is right: in many cases, the necessary water supply and sewerage works are not co-ordinated effectively with the construction of the highway. That is surprising, because one would think that the developers would want to get all that sorted out in the appropriate order. Sadly, because the developers know that the local authorities
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cannot apply any effective pressure on them to get the roads up to a suitable standard, they are very dilatory about getting the pipe work sorted out. Later in my speech, I shall tell the House about a constituent who raised that very point with me.

Clare Farthing, in another informative e-mail, says:

My constituent Mr. Fergus Macdonald, from Burton Latimer, has also taken up the issue. He told me of his concerns:

That is an extremely good point, and one that Councillor Jim Harker, the leader of Northamptonshire county council, made to me today. There needs to be a mechanism by which the highways authority can ensure the phased adoption of roads on new estates, rather than leaving it to the very end.

Another constituent who has taken a close interest is Roger Knight. He told me:

That is a very powerful point.

Roger Knight went on to cite the case of Hollow Wood road, Burton Latimer, built by Francis Jackson Homes of Olney. He wrote:

undertaken. He continued:

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He has been in touch with Fergus Macdonald, who I have already quoted, and who is the town councillor responsible for highway concerns. They both raised these issues with me. Roger Knight continued:

The issue of council tax has been taken up by many people affected by this issue. There is even an e-petition on the No. 10 website that states:

The explanation on the details of the petition on the websites states:

My contention is this: unless the Government address that loophole in the law, there will be growing calls from up and down the country for an amelioration of council tax for those residents affected. At a time when the country is in such dire financial circumstances, I am sure that that is one campaign that the Government would be keen to resist.

My constituent Tom Sanders, whom I have mentioned already, has contacted me to say that, for him, the main issues are:

He tells me:

the National House-Building Council-

Mr. Sanders took his complaints to the developer Taylor Wimpey. He wrote to Mr. Askew, the head of the organisation, and received a very nice reply from Steve Farmer, the regional managing director. Mr. Farmer said:

That is not me or my constituent saying that; it is a major house builder saying it. Mr. Farmer continued:

So there we have it: an admission from one of the major house builders in the land that the law is not as it should be.

I am most grateful to the Speaker for giving me permission to hold this debate. This is an issue of major concern that will affect an increasing number of people, not only in my constituency but across the country. It is also an issue that could be solved relatively easily with a bit of political will and drive from the Minister. It will not just be a matter for the Department for Transport, however; other Government Departments will need to be involved.

This is not a party political issue; it is a real issue of major concern that will affect lots of people up and down the country. There does not appear to be any legal requirement for developers to enter into a section 38 agreement to have roads adopted. Even if they do enter into such agreements, local authorities are unable to access bonded funds from them without the developers' consent. That is a major loophole in the Highways Act 1980 that this Government need to address.

8.41 pm

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Mr. Sadiq Khan): I, too, thank Mr. Speaker for granting the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr. Hollobone) the Adjournment debate. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing it, and on providing an opportunity to discuss the adoption of new streets, not only in his constituency but elsewhere. I should also like to put on record the fact that other hon. Members have been present and that the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Bone), and my hon. Friends the Members for Ealing, North (Stephen Pound) and for Northampton, North (Ms Keeble) have made excellent interventions and raised some important points, some of which I shall try to deal with in the two hours that I have in which to respond to the 50-minute speech made by the hon. Member for Kettering.

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It might be helpful if I first set out the background to how a highway becomes maintainable at public expense by a highway authority-a process known as adoption. During the hon. Gentleman's 50-minute speech, we heard comments about regional bodies. Reference was also made to sewerage and to legal claims. I shall try to stay away from those subjects, and to respond only to the points that fall within the remit of the Department for Transport.

An unadopted street-or private street, as it is called in the Highways Act 1980-is a highway that is not maintainable at the public expense by a highway authority. The Highway Act of 1835 introduced the provision that, for a street to become publicly maintainable, the "responsible public authority" must deliberately resolve to adopt it. Nowadays, that authority will normally be the local highway authority-for example, Northamptonshire county council is the relevant highway authority for the hon. Gentleman's constituency.

In general, the responsibility for maintaining a private street will fall to the owners of the properties adjoining it-they are known as the frontagers-who would also be legally liable to meet the expenses incurred by the council in making up the street for adoption. Part 11 of the Highways Act 1980 contains what is known as the private street works code. Under the code, a street works authority can resolve to make up a private street at any time. After the works, the street is usually adopted.

The authority can apportion the expense of making up the street between the frontagers, according to the lengths of the frontage of the individual properties that abut or front the street concerned. However, the authority may also modify those apportionments if it has been resolved in advance by the authority to take account of the degree of benefit-if there is any-that individual properties derive from the works. In addition, the authority may, if it sees fit, contribute to the cost of the scheme itself. I am not sure whether that happened in any of the cases that the hon. Gentleman described. There is provision for property owners to object to their apportionments if they see fit, and in the last resort they can appeal to my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State against the sum demanded. That is the extent of the Department's involvement in individual cases.

To avoid the wholesale creation of new private street works liability, the advance payments code was introduced. Under this code, to which the hon. Gentleman referred, a developer building a new property on land fronting a private street must deposit a sum equivalent to the authority's estimated private street works charge, before building starts. This amount is set against the frontager's own eventual liability for street works charges, which is discharged to the extent of that sum, along with any accrued interest. The frontager then pays any shortfall or receives a refund, as the case may be.

There is an alternative route to adoption for new streets. Under the Highways Act 1980, a developer can enter into an agreement with a highway authority for the adoption of a new estate road or, rather, a private street, when it has been completed satisfactorily. As the hon. Gentleman said, this is known as a section 38 agreement. In that case, the advance payments code does not apply and the house buyer on a new estate has the assurance that they will not be called upon to pay street works charges later on.

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