Report potholes and damage to roads intro

What we do when we receive a report via Fix My Street.

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What are potholes?

Potholes are defects in the highway surface, which are surrounded by surfacing material on all sides. They can develop suddenly, and our response depends on the size, depth and location of the pothole, and the risk it presents to the public.   

The A1, A19 and A69 are the responsibility of National Highways, not the council. Report potholes on these roads by contacting the National Highways help centre or emailing   

We look after the rest of Northumberland’s highways – otherwise known as the roads, pavements and grass verges. Use the online form if you spot a damaged surface on one of our roads. 

What happens when a problem is highlighted?

If we find damage on one of our roads that is considered a serious risk to road users, we will repair the defect within 24 hours. Other potholes, which aren’t a serious risk, will be repaired within 14 or 28 days.   

We regularly inspect and maintain all our roads, pavements and grass verges to make sure they’re safe and accessible. Reports from the public are also vital in maintaining our roads effectively, because damage and potholes can appear at any time. 

Your pothole questions answered

What causes potholes? 

Potholes are created by water seeping through the road surface via cracks caused by traffic. As temperatures plummet, the water freezes and expands as ice, which pushes the bitmac upwards like a bubble and ruptures the surface.   

When the ice melts, it then leaves a void below the surface, which caves in under the stress of vehicles and forms a pothole. Snow and ice are the worst conditions for exacerbating existing road defects, due to the repetition of this freeze-thaw process. Hot temperatures can also be to blame, as heat can widen the cracks.    

Why are some potholes repaired temporarily, which soon open again, requiring a return visit to re-do? 

There are many reasons. For instance, if road conditions are wet or icy a permanent repair wouldn’t work. The hot bitumen would instantly cool before adequate compaction could be achieved and the ice or water would also prevent the repair bonding to the existing road.   

Secondly, permanent repairs take time. There may be larger underlying problems that take time to solve, extra staff and equipment may be needed and roads may have to be closed. A swift temporary repair is often the best solution while we prepare to fix the problem permanently.    

There’s a pothole on a road near me that has been there for ages. How long do you take to fix them? 

Has the pothole been reported yet? Our inspections are regular, but they can’t cover every road all the time, so we rely on reports from the public too. Once a pothole is reported, we inspect the area and repair the damage as quickly as possible.   

This depends on how dangerous the damage is and how well used the road is. Naturally we prioritise potholes that present a serious risk to the public and potholes on the busiest roads.   

Is the county council responsible for damage to vehicles or personal injury as a result of potholes? Can I sue the council? 

We are only potentially liable to pay for damage to vehicles or personal injury if we have been negligent. We’re not expected to keep roads free from potholes at all times. Unfortunately, when conditions are severe, potholes are more common. The best thing to do is be prepared and take greater care during and after extreme weather. 

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