Freedom of Information
Submit a Freedom of Information Act to the relevant council or highways agency to find out how often the road is inspected and maintained.
Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 you are entitled to any information (usually free of charge) that is held by a council or highways agency about a road and the safety inspections of it. As the authorities will rely on safety inspections to refuse your claim, at some stage you will need information about how and when these inspections are undertaken. How and when they are undertaken can vary a lot between different authorities.
If you type the name of the authority you intend to claim against and the words “freedom of information” into an internet search engine, you should find a web page that will tell you all you need about how to make an FOI request from them. E-mail requests are generally handled well.
If you’ve already submitted a claim your FOI request MUST be sent to the authority, NOT to the claims handler. This applies even if you have already started your claim and the claims handler has insisted that all correspondence comes through them.
Title your e-mail or letter ‘Freedom of Information Act – Request for Information’ to avoid any confusion at all. There is no requirement to mention your claim, and it might be better if you don’t. Start your letter with something like:
“Under the general requirements of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, I would be grateful if you would provide the following information in relation to Smithy Lane, Smithtown, and in particular the section between Smith Street and Smith Close”
If you request the following information, it should enable you to adequately consider the authority’s safety inspections and road classifications:
- Dates of all safety inspections undertaken on the carriageway in the two years preceding the date of your incident
- Details of all carriageway defects identified during safety inspections in the two years preceding your incident
- Details of how carriageway safety inspections are undertaken, including whether walked or driven, the speed of the inspection vehicle and the number of persons in the vehicle.
- The intended frequency of carriageway safety inspections.
- Details of all complaints and/or enquiries relating to the carriageway, received in the two years preceding your incident.
- The hierarchy classification.
- The road/section number.
- The defect intervention criteria adopted in relation to the identification of all categories of carriageway potholes (in other words, this means how they define a pothole as requiring attention)
- The time period(s) adopted between identification and repair (temporary and permanent) of all categories of carriageway defects.
- Whether or not the authority has formally adopted all or part of the standards contained within the national code of practice for highways maintenance management.
The authority should acknowledge your request, but don’t worry if they don’t. They then have 20 working days to supply the information and most will comply. If they don’t, you can complain to the Information Commissioner’s Office. However, it is also worth sending a second e-mail/letter to the authority first, reminding them about your request and that the 20 days have expired. This might avoid getting someone into trouble for a slight oversight.
If you make your FOI request after you claim, the authority might refuse to supply the documents on the grounds that they are disclosable documents now. If this happens, you might need legal advice.
Some of the information might come as computer printout, which you can’t understand. If this happens, leave a message on the forum of this website and someone should be able to help you.