Water & Wastewater Treatment

WWT May 2017

Water & Wastewater Treatment Magazine

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Page 27 of 47

Penalties, permits and incentives With streetworks on the rise, how can utilities and local authorities best collaborate? Utilities opened the road 2.5m times last year – up from 2.2m in 2015, according to the latest ALARM (Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance) survey, which is carried out by the Asphalt Alliance. As streetworks continue to spiral in line with population growth and infrastructure demand, ministers have decided to act. This summer, the government is due to kick-off a review of how its system for issuing permits to utilities is working. Ministers are acting because the volume of roadworks being carried out by utilities continues to grow. And these pressures are only likely to intensify in the next few years with the population projected to grow to 76m by 2047, which means a lot more energy and water being piped into homes. First a quick history lesson. The legislative framework governing roadworks dates back to the 1991 Traffic Management Act (TMA), introduced by John Major's government as part of a broader initiative to cut traffic congestion, the highlight of which was the much mocked "cones hotline". Under the TMA, utilities only had to give highways authorities notice that they wanted to do works. By the early noughties, the number of companies allowed to dig up roads had ballooned to more than 150, causing a "significant growth " in the levels of disruption caused by such works, according to a recent report by the House of Commons Library. The then-Labour government beefed up highways authorities' powers over streetworks. These included allowing councils to issue permits for where and when works could take place and longer embargoes to protect repeatedly dug up streets. Where a permit scheme is in operation, a utility company has to book the street for a specified period if it wants to carry out works. Highways authorities can attach conditions on how the work is carried out and how long it should last for. Since 2012, councils have been free to introduce permit schemes without having to secure the approval of the Department for Transport first. Councils have also gained powers to introduce lane rental schemes to discourage work on busy roads during daytimes (see box, right). The permit regime is by no means universal even now. Across the whole of the South West, no authorities have gone down the permit route. Streetworks at Utility Week Live 28 | MAY 2017 | WWT | www.wwtonline.co.uk

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