Highway maintenance

Cumbria County Council has the fourth largest highway network in England with 7,900 km c/way, 4,000 km of footways and cycleways, 105,000 gullies and 45,000 light columns.
The Council needs to ensure that the highway network is effectively maintained and it is in safe condition for all road users.

A well maintained and well managed highway can contribute towards the Council priorities.

Outlined below are a number of maintenance processes.

Cumbria County Council has responsibility for the maintenance of highways, including pavements or footways, except for motorways, trunk roads and minor urban roads in Carlisle.

Trip hazards on pavements are a key concern at all times whilst the problems of standing water and ice tend to be more seasonal. Trip hazards and other defects on pavements are identified through inspections and other means, including reports from the public.

Maintenance standards for footways and cycleways do not necessarily reflect the classification of any adjacent road. They are determined by the amount of pedestrian usage and by local factors.

A hierarchy of footways and cycleways has been identified for the county as recommended by the Local Authority Association 'Code of Practice'. The hierarchy reflects the level of use and other local factors and all pavements have been placed into appropriate levels of the hierarchy.

The following defects in footways are normally categorised as Category 1 defects:

  • Dangerously rocking paving slabs

  • Projections greater than 20mm high (including manhole frames, boxes etc)

  • Cracks or gaps between flags greater than 20mm wide and more than 20mm deep

  • Isolated potholes

Category 1 defects are those which are dangerous or potentially dangerous and which require prompt attention. They are sub-divided into immediate, one working day and five working day categories, depending on their severity and location. For defects which are not considered dangerous, the level and speed of response will vary depending on the position of the footway in the hierarchy, the budget available and the scale and location of the defect.

Growth of weeds is generally prevented by weed spraying, but individual problems are dealt with by specific action.

Standing water can be prevented by reshaping the surface, and ice is treated as part of winter maintenance operations.

Pavements, particularly those constructed of paving slabs, can suffer very badly from overriding vehicles.

Please note: In the case of damage, it is important, if possible, to report the vehicle details/findings so that the council can recover the full cost of repairs to the pavement from the person responsible for causing the damage.

When works are being undertaken on the highway (including the pavement/footway), the organisation carrying out those works, generally a utility company, is responsible for the safety of pedestrians during the works. They must ensure, where necessary, -that there is a safe diversionary route and that the highway is reinstated to a prescribed standard. All utilities must provide an information board at every site so that complaints and queries can reach the responsible organisation.

We encourage you to report any defects to the Cumbria County Council Hotline which operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The Hotline number is charged at local rate.  When calling the Hotline please be prepared with details of the defect and its precise location.

Cumbria County Council Hotline: 0300 303 2992

Email:        highways@cumbria.gov.uk

Report a problem on a footway or pavement online

Potholes are a problem which can occur almost anywhere, particularly in late winter and early spring, when the road network has been subjected to freezing and thawing cycles. Deep potholes are the type of defect which require an urgent response, as they are a potential danger. We aim to have such deep potholes repaired or made safe within one working day, or five working days on minor rural roads.

Whenever possible, we carry out permanent repairs by cutting out the affected area around the pothole, sealing the sides of the hole, filling it with hot bitumen macadam and compacting the material with a roller or vibrating plate. This involves a considerable amount of equipment, so it is not always possible to be in the right place to carry out a full repair immediately on every urgent pothole. When this is not possible, we use cold material as an emergency measure and aim to go back to carry out a permanent repair in the near future, when the right gang are working in the area. Emergency repairs are not as effective as permanent ones and sometimes fail, so repeat visits are sometimes necessary.

In addition to repairing potholes, we carry out programmed patching work so that the road is prepared for surface dressing in the coming years. An inspector will walk the section of road and mark out the areas which are cracked, crazed and generally worn out and require attention with spray paint before the repair work starts on site. These sections are then cut out and carefully replaced with new material. Once a length of road has been thoroughly patched, it will probably be surface dressed within a couple of years.

Report a problem on the highway

Pot Hole Fund Allocation 2016/17

In 2016/17 Cumbria County Council was allocated £ 1.444M by the Department of Transport from the Pot Hole Action Fund

This funding was to be used on pre-emptive and reactive pot hole repairs.

The link below shows the locations where this funding was used.

Pothole Fund Report 2018

Water is damaging to roads, particularly when it finds its way into the soil under the carriageway or footway. This is because it softens the soil, and this allows the road to flex. The surfacing materials can only flex so far before cracking, and when they do so, more water gets in and makes the problem worse. You will see crazing on the surface and often potholes where this has happened.

It is therefore very important that road surfaces remain waterproof.

The skidding resistance of a road surface is important for obvious reasons, and this depends on the type of stone used in the upper layer of the road, and the roughness of the road - particularly when the surface is wet.

Surface dressing is a well established process which is used to sort out both of these problems. By spraying the road surface with bitumen, then pressing new stone chippings into the bitumen binder, the road surface is sealed against the ingress of water, and the surface texture is improved by the rougher surface and new stone.

Surface dressing is unfortunately not popular with road users, mainly because of the loose chippings which are an inevitable part of this process. However the work is carried out at considerable speed, which minimises the level of inconvenience on any given section of road when compared with other processes. The comparatively low cost of this process means that we can treat a much larger proportion of the road network each year.

The process is weather dependant

The new chippings will not embed into the road properly if the road is too cold, and the binder will not hold the chippings down if it is too hot.

The process will not work if the road is wet, or if there is heavy rain shortly after the work is carried out.

Consequently, we must be constantly aware of the weather forecast, and stop work if there is likely to be heavy rain in the next 24 hours.

Cumbria County Council can investigate obstructions on the pavement and either make safe or arrange for their removal. Such obstructions include:

  • street work or roadworks (with or without barriers)

  • skips

  • scaffolds

  • hoardings

  • advertising boards, if blocking the pavement

  • building materials

  • banners or bunting

  • hedges or trees

Some obstructions may require legal action to be taken to remove them.  This process can take months to complete. Any obstruction considered to be dangerous will be removed as soon as possible.

If you want to report an obstruction then please use the Cumbria County Council Hotline open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm (answerphone service evenings, weekends and public holidays). The Hotline number is charged at local rate. When calling the Hotline please be prepared with details of the problem and its precise location.

Cumbria County Council Hotline: 0300 303 2992

Email: highways@cumbria.gov.uk

Report a problem on a footway or pavement online

The county council cuts roadside grass to ensure that people can use the roads safely, whilst taking into account environmental and conservation considerations.

We do not cut grass that is not on the highway, for example, grass which is privately owned or on land owned by bodies other than the county council, eg. parks and public open spaces.

How, when and why?

Roadside verges are cut during the summer season. We cut a strip of verge roughly one metre wide down both sides of the road once during the year, in addition to visibility splays at road junctions. In addition, we take a full width cut of the verge every two or four years to prevent saplings and woody weeds from becoming established. The reasons for cutting the grass are:-


The strip of short grass opens up visibility along the road, particularly at bends. In addition, cutting back at road junctions improves visibility for joining traffic.

The strip of shorter grass along the road edge provides a "step-off" for pedestrians when vehicles are passing them on narrow roads.

Preventative maintenance

By preventing the establishment of saplings and woody weeds, the structure of the road and associated drainage will not be damaged by roots.


Cumbria has some of the most exceptional scenery in the UK, and the roadside verges play a part in this.

The roadside verges form important links between areas of unimproved land enabling movement of wildlife.

Verges with short grass by the road edge, graduating to higher plants at the boundary provide food and shelter for a wide range of species.

Why are the verges cut at different times?

Each verge has been surveyed and classified according to the botanical content. The cutting times are based on these classifications, and are intended to allow the seeds to set. Some verges are cut early in the year and some later in July through to September.

  • Flower rich verges are generally cut later in the year.

  • Other types may require an earlier cut

  • Every four years a full width cut is made late in the year to prevent woody weeds and saplings from growing. This cut is mainly for scrub control to protect the fabric of the road, but it also protects the flower richness of the verge by removing those plants that would shade them out. On "special" verges, this happens every two years.

  • Over 600 "special" verges have their cuttings removed to reduce fertility and prevent a build-up of mat vegetation, and so encourage a greater diversity of wildflowers
    The county council keeps the classifications of verges under review and will revise cutting times as necessary.

  • Contractors work from maps showing which verges to cut and when.

  • Cumbria Wildlife Trust volunteers monitor the condition of the verges and carry out botanical surveys.

Common ragwort is a plant that is dangerous to livestock which eats it, as it causes liver damage. All land managers are under a duty to control this plant if it grows on their land, as the parachute seeds can be carried on the wind for considerable distances and contaminate pastureland. The county council takes action to control this plant when informed of specific locations where it is growing. It is usual to pull or spray the plant to prevent it spreading.

Follow the link below to view our pamphlet "Roadside Verges in Cumbria" for more information about how we care for the roadside verges. Roadside Verges in Cumbria (PDF 3.6mb)

The theft of paving stones or flags and iron works like manhole covers and gully grates is a criminal offence.  Not only does it have a financial impact on our resources it can create very dangerous conditions for pedestrians and cyclists.

Although is it extremely rare in Cumbria it has to be attended to without delay.

If you notice missing stones or iron works then please let us know the precise location by telephoning the Cumbria County Council Hotline (0300 303 2992).  We will attend the site as soon as possible to make it safe.  If you see the stones being taken then do not approach the people involved.  Makes notes about the vehicle type, registration number and the people involved.  Telephone the Police immediately 101.