Dorset Highways uses various methods to prolong and improve road condition. 

Prevention is more cost effective than allowing a road to deteriorate to a stage where it needs replacing. Surface dressing and planned patching work form part Dorset Highway’s prevention activity to keep the road network in good condition, and resurfacing is carried out on sections of road that are failing and need to be reconstructed.

This balanced approach to maintaining Dorset’s roads allows more of the road network to be treated each year compared to just replacing roads when they reach the end of their life.

Road condition is monitored through annual surveys, which help to identify timely interventions and form planned programmes of work.

Case study - A352

In 2015, the A352 Cerne Abbas to Charminster had two different carriageway treatments carried out.

Between Cerne Abbas and north of Godmanstone, we carried out conventional resurfacing of the road due to structural failure within the surface and lower layers, which required areas of deeper reconstruction to restore shape and strength.

From north of Godmanstone to Charminster we carried out surface dressing (bitumen emulsion sprayed onto carriageway surface with chippings applied to form a uniform even surface) to restore the road texture and minimise wet weather skidding.


Patching work is carried out across the network to repair sections of damaged road across the Dorset Council area.

Roads are also 'patched' the year before they are scheduled for surface dressing. This ensures any weak areas are not further damaged before surface dressing can be carried out.

Surface dressing

Formally known as tar and chips (when we didn't know tar was bad news) this seals the road, preventing damage from water getting into the road layers, and restores surface texture to improve skid resistance.

Surface dressing doesn't add any strength to the road, but it does maintain an already strong road in a strong condition for longer.

Surface dressing treatment costs approximately £3-5 per m2, instead of resurfacing which can be anything from £25-50 per m2.

Resurfacing and reconstruction

Roads near or at the end of their life will need resurfacing or a full-depth reconstruction, replacing foundation layers of the road.

Using annual condition surveys, each year, our available funds are used to target primarily strategic routes and important link roads to services, communities and commercial areas.

Other treatments

  • microasphalt - a thin surface layer often applied to urban estate roads
  • retexturing - restores surface texture to improve skid resistance 

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