Agenda item


Purpose of report: Scrutiny of Services


To provide Members with an update on the highways permit scheme.


Declarations of interest:






Kevin Orledge, Street Works Manager

Matthew Jezzard, Traffic Manager


Key points raised during the discussion:


1.    Members were provided with a presentation on the South East Permit Scheme (SEPS) which had received Department for Transport (DfT) sign off to be implemented on 11 November 2013. This permit scheme would replace notices and would require utility companies to ask rather than tell Surrey County Council that they are doing works.


2.    The SEPS could impose conditions on the utility companies which could either be standard or model, and would be decided on a site by site basis. Each permit would cost £216 on traffic sensitive roads.


3.    The charging element of the permit scheme would enable the Street Works team to double in size which would mean there were more officers on the street monitoring the works and ensuring the conditions were being adhered to.


4.    The Committee were informed that SEPS was not a lane rental scheme, the likes of which was being trialled in London Boroughs. A lane rental scheme would be considered in the future if shown to be successful. Results to-date had been positive as the scheme appeared to be driving the right behaviour. However, the County Council would be required to charge for its own works, unlike under SEPS, and any profits would be required to be invested on projects and research within the industry.


5.    Members queried whether there would be any budget net savings under the permit scheme, however it was stated that there would be no savings as profits from the charging were to be reinvested in the scheme and new staffing.


6.    Members questioned whether it was possible to regulate how long utility companies took to complete a job. It was stated that the conditions could control the work and how long it took to complete, however the legislation required the County Council to be ‘reasonable’ and it was felt that the permit scheme would help control the works but would not entirely resolve the issue of works taking a long time to complete.


7.    One of the conditions which would be part of the permit scheme would be that all works on traffic sensitive roads would require an information board to be visible to the public. These boards would include information such as; contact number, type of works and expected duration. It was felt that although these boards would assist, it was very difficult to manage the time frames accurately as other emergency works could arise which would push back the start date. However, if there was a significant drift from the stated start date there would be a condition which would deal with this issue.


8.    For emergency works the same rules would apply; that a permit would be required and a fee charged. The officers would only be given a couple of hours notice of works starting but would have the power to question whether the works being completed were emergency works. If utility companies found further issues in the locality, which were not of an urgent nature, then a subsequent permit would be required.


9.    Officers would have the power to revoke permits if it was felt the conditions were not right, such as snow and floods, and would then engage with the utility companies to find an alternative suitable date for works to begin.


10.  The Committee were informed that it was difficult to make all works take place at night due to a number of restrictions, including noise, but where it was felt that it was possible this could be made to be a condition of the permit.


11.  Members were concerned that utility companies may be willing to work outside the terms of their permits and accept a fixed penalty notice if it came at a lesser cost than compensating local businesses. However officers confirmed that the County Council had the power to take the company to court if penalties were not paid or conditions were repeatedly breached.


12.  The potential for a Lane Rental scheme in Surrey was discussed. Officers informed the Committee that feedback from the Department for Transport and Kent County Council – who currently operated such schemes – was positive, and that this could possibly be rolled out in Surrey in the future. It was noted however that under a lane rental scheme the Council would be obliged to apply charges to its own works. 


13.  The Committee were informed that the permit scheme would enable more inspections of works to take place as each inspection could be charged to the works promoter. The inspections would be used to ensure there was compliance with the conditions of the permit and could ensure that full reinstatement of the road took place and all materials were removed after the works were completed.


14.  Members queried whether officers expected a rise in applications prior to the start date of 11 November 2013 for the permit scheme. The officers assured Members that any works which were to take place after 11 November were being requested to reapply after this date.


15.  The Committee were informed that pothole works were considered emergency works as these were reactive works.






Actions/further information to be provided:




Committee next steps:


The Committee will scrutinise the South East Permit Scheme six months following its implementation.