Highways Quick Guide

The highway network is an important facility and asset which is used by all members of the community. It makes a vital contribution to the local and national economy providing the means of moving the vast majority of people and goods.

Highways, both roads and pavements, comprise much of the community space in residential and shopping areas. Vulnerable people and people with disabilities require a number of special facilities to ensure they can access the highway network safely for both leisure and work-related journey.

We value your feedback and ask that people report any problems or suggestions that they have and the best way to do this is to contact Street Doctor. By doing this we can log, monitor and prioritise calls and learn from our findings what we need to do and the best and most cost efficient way of doing it.

For Highways advice or to report a fault please call Street Doctor on 0300 126 1000.

For a complete version of the Highway Code, please visit the DirectGov website.

The Motorway and Trunk road networks are dealt with by the Highways Agency independently of the County Council. Now that the process of de-trunking is complete this consists of M1, A14, M45, A5 and the A43.

Abnormal Loads

The movement of large or heavy loads is known as ‘abnormal loads.’

Should a haulier wish to transport a large or heavy load, known as an abnormal load, (eg a vehicle having a gross weight greater than 40 tonnes, or a long or wide load), he must notify the police and gain their consent prior to the movement taking place.

Blue Badge

The national Blue Badge scheme allows people with severe walking difficulties who travel as either driver or passenger to park closer to their destinations.

The scheme also applies to registered blind people, people with severe upper limb disabilities in both arms who regularly drive a vehicle and children under two with specific medical conditions.

Blue Badge Parking

To ensure that a Blue Badge holder is not given a Penalty Charge Notice, they must display their Blue Badge at all times (Please ensure that the side showing the valid date of the Badge is visible from the outside of your vehicle).

Blue badge holders may park free of charge, and without a time limit, at pay and display on street parking and council owned car parks within Northampton. (Please be advised that this may not be the case in other towns and cities and a local traffic regulation order would specify a time limit for holders of disabled parking badges)

Cars – Dumped

Have you seen an abandoned vehicle recently? Are you tired of burned-out cars creating an eye-sore? Is there an abandoned or nuisance vehicle outside your house? Are you wondering where you can report it? If so, contact ELVIS RECOVERY on 08456 121 999 or email elvis.recovery@northants.police.uk

Casualty Reduction

In response to new Government targets for casualty reduction set in 1999, Northamptonshire County Council and Northamptonshire Police forged a formal partnership collaboration with a number of other stakeholders including Northants Fire & Rescue, the Highways Agency and HM Courts

The aim is to provide safer roads within Northamptonshire whereby the current level of death and serious injury resulting from road collisions are significantly reduced.

We provide educational schemes designed to target vulnerable road users and high risk groups. Each initiative is intended to address all the relevant issues and factors as well as deliver schemes to a high volume audience at little or no cost.

Details of all casualty reduction interventions and initiatives in Northamptonshire can be found on www.reducingroadcasualties.com

Closures and Diversions

Sometimes works on the highway, or some large deliveries, require a road to be closed temporarily to general through traffic. Such closures require a temporary traffic regulation order issued by the Highway Authority.

Cycle use

We are actively encouraging cycle use, to improve air quality, reduce traffic and improve health.

We want to make the conditions for cycling safer and more attractive and will do this by maintaining and developing the Cycle Network, ultimately providing you with better facilities.

Dropped Kerbs

We are responsible for permitting construction of dropped kerbs (otherwise known as vehicle access crossings or crossovers). To ensure that these are properly constructed only the County Council’s approved contractors are permitted to do this work.

Please contact the Regulations Department who will check the viability of your proposal and confirm that approval or refusal in writing.


Problems with flooding can occur even when drainage provisions are clean and well maintained. Flooded and waterlogged roads result when the amount of water arriving on the road is greater than the capacity of the drainage facilities to take it away.

Gritting and Snow Clearance

The Winter Maintenance season runs from the beginning of October through to the end of April and is a cyclic operation which involves careful planning prior to the start of each year.

Highway Drainage

Highway drainage systems, where provided, will be maintained to ensure that flooding is minimised and that standing water does not remain on carriageways, footways or cycletracks.

Drainage systems do not deteriorate in a predictable manner. They normally fail due to one or a combination of the following reasons:

  • Pipework damaged by utility operators or by the effects of traffic
  • Pipes blocked by tree roots
  • Pipes and gullies blocked by detritus and foreign objects
  • Pipework damaged by earth movements such as embankment slips
  • Ironwork (gullies and manhole covers) breaking, rocking, or coming loose from their bedding due to effects of heavy traffic

Service inspections cover all visible drainage items both on and off carriageway. These include culverts, filter drains, gullies, grips, offlets and headwalls.

Ad hoc inspections are carried out, in particular after heavy rain, or in response to reports. Maintenance work is carried out on the basis of the inspections.

Highway Structures

Highway structures include bridges, retaining walls, highway drains and sewers (culverts) and subways.

Our priority is to ensure that structures are kept in a safe condition, suitable for the loads that they are designed to support.

The county has an increasing number of structures due to the growth and development in Northamptonshire and our aim is to continually improve and be cost effective in our maintenance methods.

Lay bys, Picnic areas and litter

These areas are essential rest places for drivers and must always be kept neat, tidy and usable. The District Councils are responsible for the cleanliness and maintenance of these areas.

Red Routes

Every road in Northamptonshire has been surveyed and the 49 most dangerous are categorised as Red because of the number and severity of collisions in the past three years.

The Red Route system is constantly monitored and reviewed annually using collision date for the whole year.

Road Adoption

A private street can include a road, highway, lane, footway, alley, passage, square or court not maintainable at public expense. As such the local highway authority is not responsible for its repair / maintenance and cleansing.

Adoption of a private street essentially means that the local highway authority has taken over responsibility for its maintenance i.e. it has become maintainable at public expense.

Roads – Reporting Hazards

Any hazard in the highway (road or pavement) caused as a result of an accident, damage or vandalism may be considered a risk to the public and could result in personal injury to pedestrians, road users or possible damage to property.

Rights of Way

Northamptonshire has over 3000 kilometres of Public Rights of Way, forming over 4300 separate routes varying in length from just a few metres, to routes forming County Paths. These include The Nene Way, Macmillan Way, Knightley Way and links with other counties to form long distance routes including The Midshires Way and The Hereward Way.

Public Rights of Way are paths for walkers, cyclists and horseriders. They allow people to enjoy the countryside at a leisurely pace providing public footpaths, bridleways and byways accessible to the public for free.

As public rights of ways often cross private property it is our responsibility to maintain up to date and accurate maps showing the network ensuring this information is publically available.

We want you to enjoy these public highways and always find them open and accessible.

Road Markings

Road markings are an important part of our work. By maintaining and renewing road markings and studs we endeavour to keep the highways safe for motorists by day and night.

What are road markings for? Road markings are for the warning, guidance and control and information of road users, whether motorists, cyclists or pedestrians. Maintained correctly, they keep the roads safe and well-marked, so that, for example, motorists can differentiate clearly between lanes in a street or on a dual carriageway, while cycle paths, pedestrian crossings etc are clearly indicated. They show information and requirements that cannot be given simply by roadside signs.

Road Signs

The Highway Authority provides signs in order to give information to the road user. The Highway Code gives examples of the most common signs in normal use.

Signs Fall into Certain Groups:

  • Regulatory signs – signs with red circles
  • Warning signs – mostly triangular
  • Direction signs – mostly rectangular. Stack and map type
  • Information signs – mostly rectangular

All signs on the highway must be authorised by the Highway Authority. Special signs are allowed with prior approval of the Department for Transport, or if they are experimental and under trial.

Tourism Signing

Tourism signing provides an important opportunity for both tourism businesses and local economies and will be implemented positively and constructively.

There is of course an advertising element as it helps to generate more impromptu visits. However the primary purpose is to guide safely those wishing to visit a tourist destination along the most appropriate route for the latter stages of their journey, or to indicate facilities that a tourist would not reasonably expect to find in that location.

Road – Weight Limits

Weight restrictions can be imposed for structural or for environmental reasons. It is a legal control imposed on vehicles above a specified weight or width, on specific roads and routes.

The restriction prevents lorries from using inappropriate roads, routes and areas in order to:

  • Reduce danger to pedestrians and other road users
  • Prevent damage to buildings, roads and bridges
  • Preserve the character, amenity and environment of an area
  • Reduce and manage congestion on the roads


It is the County Council’s policy to keep disruption and delay to an absolute minimum while at the same time ensuring that operatives working given the maximum protection.

The Elgin website provides an up-to-date interactive map of current and planned works on the road for a large area of the UK. The information on Elgin is kept current by automatic data feeds from local authorities’ streetworks registers and the Highway Agency.  www.elgin.gov.uk

Roundabout Sponsorship

The County Council has appointed the marketing company Keegan Ford Sponsorship Ltd to look for commercial sponsors for roundabouts in the County. Keegan Ford Sponsorship Ltd will employ landscaping contractors to improve the appearance of the sponsored roundabouts and undertake regular maintenance.

Safer Routes to School

Safer Routes to School aims to create a safe, healthy environment so that children and young people can travel to and from school using sustainable forms of transport such as cycling and walking, thereby increasing their independence, health and fitness.

Speed Limits

Speed limits are used to provide both protection for residents in towns, villages and hamlets as well as for safety measures where accident records indicate that there is a problem caused by inappropriate speed. Speed limit extensions are generally required where new development takes a built up area beyond the limits of existing speed limits.

The County Council has powers to impose, vary or remove speed limits on certain roads in its area and in observance of Government criteria.

We (often with the local police) are responsible for setting speed limits on roads within their area. In setting a speed limit we will consider the alignment of the road, the speed most motorists expect to travel along this road and the type of road and where it is located. Applications to revise speed limits may be considered by the authority.

Street Lighting

The Council is responsible for the design, installation and maintenance of street lights, traffic signals.

Maintaining streetlights

Street lights and illuminated traffic signs are regularly maintained and inspected to ensure we provide a safe and efficient system.

  • Nightly patrols throughout the year
  • Inspections, tests and cleaning every three years
  • Bulk lamp changes generally every three years

Some street lights in the county are the responsibility of the Highways Agency, local, district or borough councils and parish councils.

We aim to: repair faults such as single lights within fifteen days of being reported or priority work (e.g. at roundabouts or junctions) within 48 hours.

We design new lighting schemes to help reduce the risk of night-time accidents and improve public safety.

Traffic Lights

How do we decide where to put traffic lights?

If a junction or crossing has a poor accident record or congestion caused by high traffic volumes, it may be improved by traffic lights. We maintain them to ensure they minimize accidents, congestion and delays.

Maintenance and repair

All traffic lights are remotely monitored by computer and are regularly maintained and cleaned.

To report a fault contact StreetDoctor

Temporary traffic lights

Temporary traffic lights may be installed:

  • Because of possible traffic hazard
  • To manage traffic flow from new developments, schools, leisure centres. (In some cases developers will finance new signals)

Faulty temporary traffic lights should in the first instance be reported to the company responsible for the lights. Contact details can usually be found marked on the traffic lights themselves.

Trees, Hedges & Verges

Most roadside hedge and trees are the responsibility of the landowner. If we notice overhanging hedges during a routine inspection, or receive a complaint, we will ask the landowner to cut them back. All work is based on safety and ensuring maximum visibility to road users.

In most cases, if a tree needs to be removed we will replace it as we want to ensure the highways are primarily safe but maintained in a sympathetic manner.

The Council cuts grass to ensure that people can use roads and pavements safely. Although environmental issues are of paramount concern, grass cutting is actually carried out for highway safety reasons rather than environmental purposes.

How can you help?

  • don’t park on grass verges
  • do not place decorative stones or logs on verges as these can be dangerous
  • let us know about any junction where the view is blocked by long grass or overgrown hedges
  • maintain your own hedges safely and responsibly

Vegetation can grow rapidly, especially during favourable weather. If you observe a problem with overgrown vegetation let us know through StreetDoctor and an inspection and any necessary maintenance work will be organised.

White & Yellow Lines

Yellow lines are provided where there is a need to restrict parking to help alleviate traffic flow and to prevent obstructions on the highway.

White lines on the road are provided to help road users by giving different types of information. Road markings are as important as signs.