Highway drainage

Gully cleansing

In general we will visit and clean every gully on the ‘A’ Road network and in known flood risk areas at least annually.

We keep records of every gully we attend to include when we visited, what we did and what we found (including recording silt levels). We use this information to plan for future cleaning and for some streets in other areas we may only visit every 3 years due to low silt levels.

You will see on the following worksheets a record of what we have cleaned and where we plan to visit in the coming months. Where we have completed about 80% of the gullies in any street and the risk is assessed as low for those not cleansed, the street will appear in the completed programme.

There are a number of reasons why we may not be able to cleanse some of the gullies in certain streets. Where there is a known problem a different gang will attend to repair or clean and this may not appear in the electronic record of the gully emptier, but where the risk is low the clean will carry forward to the next cycle.

Such reasons include the following:

​Parked cars are the most common reason for a gully not being cleansed. Our operatives will always make attempts wherever possible to request the removal of parked cars by homeowners to allow the gully emptying operations to continue unhindered. However, where there are known areas with high levels of parking and within flood risk areas the following methodology is put in place to ensure these gullies are cleansed on time:

  • Advanced warning boards are placed at the entrance of the road to be cleansed giving residents 5 days’ notice of the proposed gully emptying along the street.

  • 2 days prior to the empting of gullies Tow-away Boards are placed on all parking bays and parking areas where there are gullies located and a mail shot will be delivered to all the houses along the street informing them of the intended operation and requesting them to not park over any gullies.

  • When we commence the gully cleansing operations, if there are still parked cars within the street blocking gullies an assessment will be made and if required the cars will be towed and moved away from any gullies to ensure the cleanse can be completed. NB: This tow-away option is used as a last resort only and if there are a substantial amount of gullies being blocked by parked vehicles.

Streets where this methodology is carried out currently are:

  • St Leonard’s Road Northampton
  • Haines Road Northampton
  • Euston Road Northampton
  • Penrhyn Road Northampton
  • Ransome Road Northampton
  • London Road Northampton
  • Towcester Road Northampton

This is not an exhaustive list and new sites are added as issues surrounding parking in known flood risk areas become apparent.

​Unfortunately sometimes it is not possible to lift the lids of gully chambers because the lid has become stuck or seized.

Our operatives will make every attempt to loosen the lids whilst on site however sometimes our only option is to arrange the replacement of the lid completely as part our planned maintenance programme.

​Northamptonshire Highways are sometimes not able to attend streets that were planned to be cleansed due to third parties such as Utilities Companies or Developers carrying out their own works on the highway.

Wherever possible we will try to collaborate with the third party to ensure that the gullies are cleansed at the same time as their works however, this is not always possible. If a street has been missed due to issues such as these they will be re-added to our programme and cleansed at a later date.

​All gullies are drain tested after they have been cleansed to ensure that they are functioning correctly. When a gully is found to not be functioning, the Gully Maintenance Team will jet the outlets using their on board jetting hose to try to clear any blockage.

In some instances this jetting is still not sufficient to clear the blockage within the outlet and may require a specialist High Pressure Jetting Vehicle to attend site to clear it. When this occurs the onsite team will make an assessment of the site and assess the levels of risk from the gully not functioning correctly.

If the risk is deemed to be high then this will be escalated to ensure that an emergency response team is sent to site to rectify the situation or if it isn’t possible to fix, put appropriate mitigation measures in place. If there is a low risk to users of the highway or property from flooding, this issue will be passed to the Area Maintenance Team to assess and instigate a permanent repair as part of their planned maintenance works.

Planned maintenance programme

​We have a programme of works based on historical data that has been collected over the last 11 years.

We maintain approximately 150,000 gullies on the publicly maintained highway and we clean an average of 500 gullies a day as part of our planned maintenance programme. 

Please look out for the advance notice signs in your street. They will tell you when we need cars moved to enable easy access for the highways operatives and the necessary equipment needed to complete the tasks.

Should you see a gully that you feel needs our attention, you should continue to report it via Street Doctor.

Further information


In times of heavy rainfall it may take a while for the water to drain from the carriageway. This is due to the sheer volume of water that the drainage system is trying to take. This is perfectly normal, as is water at the edge of a carriageway following rain. Anglian Water's drains can reach capacity leaving nowhere for our gullies to drain so we ask that you please allow at least two hours after the rain stops before reporting any standing water on a highway.

However, if a road is impassable and potentially hazardous it may need urgent attention. Please call 0300 126 1000 between 08.00 and 16.00 (Monday to Friday) and 01604 651074 outside of these hours.


A ditch is used to drain water from low-lying areas, alongside roadways or fields. It is the adjacent landowner's responsibility to ensure that the ditch is not blocked.

For more information on ditches and riparian ownership (someone who owns property that is next to a watercourse or has a watercourse running through it), please visit our Flood and Water Management page, which will also provide you with other useful information about flood prevention.

Drainage grips

A highway grip is a shallow ditch connecting the road edge to the roadside ditch to drain rainwater from the highway. Part of our road maintenance is to ensure these are clear and not overgrown. If you think a grip needs attention please report this using Street Doctor.


Please contact your borough or district council if:

  • highway drains are blocked by leaves and litter
  • there are blocked drains in a car park run by a borough or district council
  • If there is a blocked drain on a Trunk Road, contact Highways England

Trunk Roads are:

  • M1, M45, A5, A14
  • A43 between the M40 Junction 10 and M1 Junction 15a (from Northampton to the county boundary near Stamford is NCC)
  • A45 between Thrapston and the M1 Junction 15 (from Junction 16 to the county boundary towards Dunchurch is NCC)

You should contact the landowner if there is a problem with:

  • drainage from private houses,
  • roads or land (Anglian Water) may also be able to help with this)
  • open ditch drainage systems next to roads