I am today announcing that, in line with the principles of localism, the role of the Secretary of State in approving local authority permit schemes for works in the street will be removed. This announcement follows a consultation on the proposals, which closed last spring.
Permit schemes provide highway authorities with the means to better manage activities on their road network, to minimise inconvenience and disruption to road users. Highway authorities do not have to introduce permit schemes. Where schemes are implemented, the authority is able to grant permits to works promoters to undertake works on the highway. This provides greater control over works in their area, and enables them to promote better working practices, for example, working outside peak hours where appropriate. A permit scheme also enables improved co-ordination of works.
Once implemented the change to the approval process will reduce bureaucracy and will offer local authorities the ability to develop, introduce and operate schemes in their area, to best suit local needs. These changes are in line with both the government’s commitment to ensure regulatory proposals are proportionate and our desire to see congestion caused by roadworks reduced by effective management, and for works promoters to be held accountable for that congestion.
Authorities with schemes in operation report that they reduce the time taken to complete necessary street works. To optimise the benefits and minimise the administrative burden of future permit schemes, I have recently published guidance to focus new schemes on busy and traffic sensitive streets. This will ensure a proportionate approach and maximise benefits to all road users. To give time for local authorities to adjust to this new approach, I will retain the Secretary of State’s approval of schemes until at least 2015. As well as removing the Secretary of State’s approval, I intend to change the permit scheme regulations to make the consequential changes and embed these developments into both regulations and guidance.
The full consultation response can be found at www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-transport. I am placing a copy in the House libraries.
To take forward these proposals, I plan to introduce appropriate changes to the Traffic Management Act when a suitable legislative opportunity arises, and also to make the resultant changes to the permit scheme regulations.