Cones in road

Local councils should find it easier to minimise the disruption caused by road works, following a DfT decision to allow them to create permit schemes without having to get central government approval.

The change, announced by transport minister Norman Baker on 23 January, may take effect as early as 2015 and will mean councils can introduce such schemes – which limit the time utility companies can take over road works and apply fines if they overrun – more easily.

Permit schemes, which are already in place in over 50 local authorities, have already been shown to reduce the disruption caused by road works, says the DfT. In the first year of a scheme in Kent, for example, highway occupation was reduced by the equivalent of six years, equating to a 5% fall in disruption, it says.

Peter Box, chair of the Local Government Association’s economy and transport board, welcomed the move. “Making it easier for councils to control when and how utility road works are carried out will help them keep disruption to a minimum. Reducing the red tape around permit schemes is something we have long called for,” he said.

An LGA spokesman told he was confident councils could really use their new powers to make a difference – in particular by ensuring that different utility companies co-ordinated the timing of their work in any given road; by preventing work from taking place on routes already being used as a diversion around other road works;  and by delaying work to roads during particularly busy periods – for example in the middle of an arts festival.

  •  In a separate development, the DfT has also announced plans to devolve decision making on major local transport schemes, giving local areas control over how their share of funding is spent. From 2015, each local transport body will be allocated funding according to the number of residents it has. The move is a substantial change from the previous arrangements under which local areas had to bid for a share of funding and put specific schemes forward for consideration.