'Our South London road is covered in potholes that damage our cars - we don't know who owns it'

Barnscroft potholes
-Credit: (Image: Harrison Galliven)

Residents of a cul-de-sac in Raynes Park have expressed frustration that their road will not be fixed by Merton Council because it's unclear who is responsible for its upkeep. The quality of the road is so bad that it is now causing damage to residents' cars.

Barnscroft, Raynes Park, is currently an unadopted road meaning Merton Council has no obligation to pay for its upkeep and repair. However, a lack of clarity over who is responsible for the road has led to it being left in the poor state it currently sits in.

Barnscroft is a quiet cul-de-sac affixed to the end of Westway Close. You could be forgiven for thinking the road ends at the line of garages at the end of Westway, but venture further and you will find a row of 16 maisonettes facing towards Raynes Park memorial ground.

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Gary Cheng
Gary Cheng says, other than the road quality, Barnscroft is a nice place to live -Credit:Harrison Galliven

When passing across the threshold from Westway Close to Barnscroft, it's hard not to notice the difference in road quality. While Westway Close has the kind of newly tarmacked surface you would expect from a council-adopted road, Barnscroft has a crumbling surface littered with potholes and cracks reminiscent of minor earthquake damage.

While road damage certainly hasn't appeared overnight, residents have recently launched a petition to call for the road to become an adopted road under the council's responsibility. If successful, this would mean the council has an obligation to repair and potentially resurface the road.

During a visit to Barnscroft, residents told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) of their frustrations with the road. Jay Edwards, who moved in eight years ago, told the LDRS how the apparent lack of inaction from the council led him to take matters into his own hands.

Edwards said: "I've been here for eight years, I've told the council everything but it’s [no use]. They keep saying there's nothing we can do, it's like bashing your head against a wall.

Barnscroft entrance
Barnscroft sits at the end of another road can be easily missed by passers-by -Credit:Harrison Galliven

"I filled the hole at the end of the road myself years ago, no one else. I just got some sand and cement and filled in the hole, I was just sick and tired of it busting my wheels. They said it's not an adopted road. I said if so, then I want my council tax back. What am I paying for?"

Residents told the LDRS how the road has not received any repairs in past decade, causing potholes and cracks to become even more pronounced. Another resident, Megan Agnew, told the LDRS of the road's effect on her and her partner's car.

She said: "We have a car and so we notice it more. It often scrapes the bottom of your car as you drive along, you can hear it if you don't quite get the angle right while reversing out."

Agnew admitted that road surface quality is much more of an issue to those who drive and not those who rely on buses of the nearby Raynes Park train station. However, concerns remain over the true ownership of the road.

Barnscroft sign
The Council is not currently responsible for the upkeep of the road -Credit:Harrison Galliven

Some residents believe the road has piecemeal ownership, where each maisonette freehold owns a portion of the road in front. After investigating the title plans on the Land Registry, it was confirmed that most addresses owned a section of the road directly in front of it.

However, it was still unclear who owned the remaining section beyond the maisonette property on the right-hand side of the road. This confusion is further compounded by the inclusion of the Merton Council logo on the various Barnscroft street signs.

Agnew told the LDRS: "The problem is we don't know who owns the road. The council can't go to the person and say we'll adopt the road and repair it.

"My husband wants to take action and get it done, but obviously it's quite difficult to manage because it costs a lot of money and not everyone wants to or has the money to contribute to it getting fixed."

Gary Cheng moved into Barnscroft with his partner over a year ago. He told the LDRS that Barnscroft was a nice place to live, where 'everyone greets each other as they walk past'.

However, he admitted the quality of the road is hard to ignore and is made worse considering there is only one way out via car. He said: "It would be nice to have some sort of control over this road."

Cheng pointed to the road, adding: "I imagine it's been like this for decades, just look at how the weeds have made their way through the cracks. It's definitely bumpy, my car is not a country car and it will be destroyed if I go up and down here too many times, especially at speed.

"It's in a very bad condition so you better go slow when you're making your way out of here. Some people even get taxis to drop them at the top of the road."

The left-hand side of the road is owned by the freehold owner of the maisonettes -Credit:Harrison Galliven

Cheng also questioned how the council could justify sending a refuse lorry down the narrow unadopted street for their rubbish pickup. "It's not like they don't use the road," he added.

While Merton Council has not currently adopted the road, there are routes available for unadopted private roads to be taken under the council's remit. According to Merton Council's website: "Existing roads will not normally be adopted unless they are brought up to current standards by the owners of the road."

It goes on to say: "It may for example be unpaved, without kerbs, footways, surface water sewers, drains and lighting. We may resolve to raising the standard of a private street by providing any or all of the missing features or by improving the standard of any existing features."

The Barnscroft residents' petition can be found here.

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