Road Opening Notices
When carrying out work in the public highway permission has to be given in the form of a road opening notice issued by the local authority. Each authority has its own application procedure and these usually require at least 10 days notice, although large projects, or busy roads, can take several months. Utilities can obtain these direct from local authorities but others usually need to make a written application and pay fees in the region of £100 for domestic properties and £300 for commercial. Some local authorities may operate a permit scheme and this is explained below.
The licence lasts a set period of time, usually 10 or 28 days for service laying work. Applicants have to provide information about the location, size and extent of excavations as well as evidence about the competence of those undertaking the work. Currently, applicants have to meet the requirements of the New Streets Work Act 1991. The licence commits the applicant to guaranteeing the work for two years and can attract penalty charges if the work overruns completion dates.
However, in April 2008 the new Traffic Management Act 2004 came into full operation and part of this gives more powers over street works to local authorities. The new Act enables local authorities to operate a permit scheme. This is aimed at reducing the disruption caused by roadworks by encouraging better co-ordination between utilities and inflicting larger financial penalties for overrunning completion dates.
So far not all local authorities have switched to the permit scheme as they need to go through an application process before being given authority to operate this new scheme. But, expect more interest in increasing local authority powers, including larger penalty fines, following the Department of Transport’s recently announced Street Works Action Plan. Local authorities are also showing an increasing interest in shared trenching to reduce the number of occasions roads are opened up.