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Streetworks FAQs

What is the permit scheme?
Can we ban the utilities from digging up the streets and footways?
How are street works managed by the City Corporation?
What do other boroughs do to manage street works?
Is there a penalty for finishing road works late?
How do you track street works?
How long are utilities allowed to completely close Square Mile streets for?
I have seen sites with no-one on them, how do you police the sites?
What role does the City of London Police play?
Why do the utilities dig up the same streets time after time?
What is lane rental?
How many street works are there each year in the Square Mile?
How many street works are being carried out by the City’s own contractors– ie not utilities?
Which utility companies dig up the streets? 
How are road closures advertised?
How do we communicate with City Businesses?
Why doesn’t the City Corporation tell people their road is about to be dug up as well?
Can the City Corporation do more to coordinate road works?
What is the difference between utility street works and the City Corporation’s own road works?
Why do these companies dig up the road immediately after the City of London Corporation has resurfaced it?
Why does it always take longer than originally planned?
How can I contact you to complain about a certain street-work?

Powers to control and manage works

What is the permit scheme?

The London Permit Scheme began in January 2010 and it means both utilities and the highway authority’s own contractors have to apply for a permit to dig up the highway. Certain conditions can be attached, and for utilities, an admin fee is charged depending on the type of works. In other words, contractors effectively request road space, allowing a better opportunity for City officers to work with them in coordinating works. The use of conditions gives authorities greater powers to regulate works, and by charging a fee, speculative applications are discouraged. Failure to comply with permit conditions can result in Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) being issued. Ordinarily works in the City are well managed and the issuing of FPNs is unnecessary. However we closely monitor works and do issue FPNs when the need arises and the City expects to issue some 50 or more FPNs each year.

Can we ban the utilities from digging up the streets and footways?

No. Statutory utility companies have a legal right under the New Road and Street Works Act 1991 to dig up roads and footways to maintain equipment and provide new supplies e.g. to supply new developments. More info on  www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/streetworks

How are street works managed by the City Corporation?

Unless works relate to an emergency (eg a gas leak) or are otherwise urgent, representatives from the City’s Highways team in the Department of the Built Environment arrange site meetings with the statutory utility company or contractors to discuss works. In bigger schemes representatives from the Traffic Management team may also attend along with Environmental Health officers to consider noise and other environmental issues. On the agenda are a range of issues including other street works nearby, any planned public events or road closures and consideration is also given as to how best to minimise the disruption to vehicular and human traffic flow. As part of this process consideration is also given to Transport for London works on their ‘Red Route’ network and any works the City is  aware of in neighbouring boroughs that might impact upon the scheme or vice versa.

Once plans are agreed they are monitored very closely to ensure compliance with what is agreed and Fixed Penalty Notices will be issued if there are any significant breaches of Permit conditions. Where possible, the City also invites other utility companies to take advantage of road closures and works, as part of “trench sharing”. In the last 12 months the City has been successful in achieving trench sharing on 50 occasions thereby greatly reducing the number of times City roads were dug up. However utilities cannot be forced to do this and there can often be health and safety issues resulting from too many contractors working in one area. Furthermore, utility companies  are often under great pressure from their City customers to provide a service quickly so as to enable schemes to be completed and buildings occupied etc.

What do other boroughs do to manage street works?

Other boroughs do not have any more powers than the City and in some cases, because they have not adopted the necessary legislation, they have fewer. Street works are governed by national legislation, e.g. the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991 which for example sets the level of notice that a utility has to give to the Local Authority before works begin. The Traffic Management Act 2004 introduced extra controls to allow highway authorities to operate a permit system (see above), which the City has adopted, along with 17 London boroughs, Transport for London and a small number of local authorities in the rest of the UK. The London Permit Scheme has common rules which apply to all participating boroughs. Without a permit system in place, utilities only inform the relevant highway authority that they will be digging up the road.  No fee is required and they do not need the highway authority to formally agree that the works can go ahead. Also, without permits, there are no equivalent controls to formally authorise the highway authority’s own works.

Is there a penalty for finishing road works late?

Yes, if a utility company fails to complete works by the specified time, or fails in its obligations (for example does not request a permit extension), it is a criminal offence and a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPNs) can be issued. This fine is per occasion and can be up to £500. The utility company can also be subject to daily charges of between £100 and £2,500 per day if their works overrun, according to the category of road. We have issued more than 50 FPNs in the last 12 months.

How do you track street works?

Permit applications are logged on a specialist database which records the proposed dates and duration of the works, any specific conditions agreed and whether the application has been granted or refused. Once works have started, the permit application is updated by the contractor, and when works have finished, the permit is closed. View details and track street works on www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/streetworks.

How long are utilities allowed to completely close Square Mile streets for?

Applications for road closures are judged on merit, and because they need a Traffic Management Order, they are dealt with separately to the permit system. When a closure is needed the applicant must demonstrate that the closure is justified and that the impact on City stakeholders (whether residents, businesses or traffic) has been minimised. All applicants for road closures are instructed to contact affected premises direct. In addition, the City uses the Evening Standard, the Traffic Management Bulletin, the City website and on-street notices as means of communication.

I have seen sites with no-one on them, how do you police the sites?

Often this is a necessary break, for example, when concrete or asphalt has been laid and time is needed for it to harden. There are also times during the day when noisy works are not allowed. The City employs 2 street work inspectors whose job it is to inspect the works to ensure that sites are safe, works are to time and meet permit conditions. Utilities pay a contribution towards these inspections but it only covers the cost of inspecting 30% of their works.

What role does the City of London Police play?

The City of London Police are not directly responsible for coordinating street works, although they are consulted on large scale works. However they do have the power to suspend works if they consider street works have the potential to cause danger to the public or damage to property.

Why do the utilities dig up the same streets time after time?

Mainly this is because the City, one of the world’s leading business centres, has large amounts of underground piping and cabling owned by different companies and each company is under pressure from its customers to supplement, repair or replace their network. They have a right to do this under the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991. Utilities often do not know their own advance programme beyond the immediate future, so there is limited opportunity to co-ordinate works.

What is lane rental?

‘Lane Rental’ is a provision contained in the New Road and Street Works Act 1991 which has not yet been authorised by Government.. The ‘Lane Rental’ provision would require utility companies to pay a fee to the Local Authority for each day they occupy the highway. The intention of this provision is that it should act as an incentive to reduce the number of days the highway is dug up. A limited trial was authorised by Government several years ago but the results were inconclusive and the scheme was withdrawn. However Government is now assessing whether a new scheme should be trialled, particularly in those cases where works might cause major traffic disruption.

Activity levels

How many street works are there each year in the Square Mile?

We issue nearly 6,000 permits (see question 1 above) every year authorising street works to take place in the Square Mile. We also refuse as many as another 400 requests for permits each year for a variety of reasons such as the highway network already being overloaded with works or time periods specified on the permit requests being unacceptable. View details on www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/streetworks

How many street works are being carried out by the City’s own contractors– ie not utilities?

Just over 2,000 permits every year relate to City road works, which is about a third of the total. Some of these are repairs and some are improvements to keep the Square Mile a first-class environment for world-leading businesses and workers

Which utility companies dig up the streets?

The main companies involved in gas, water, electricity and telecoms are National Grid Gas, Thames Water, UK Power Networks, BT, COLT, AboveNet, Geo, EU Networks, Cable & Wireless Worldwide, Virgin Media, Verizon Business, Global Crossing, Interoute and Vtesse. They employ a number of specialist subcontractors depending upon the nature of the works.

Communications

How are road closures advertised?

A public notice is placed in the local newspaper and notices are typically placed on nearby street furniture and information is added to the City’s website and Traffic Management Bulletin.

How do we communicate with City businesses?

It is a standard condition of every permit that the company undertaking the works is to inform affected premises. Also, the City provides a weekly Traffic Management Bulletin that is widely circulated to business and others interested. Anyone can subscribe to the weekly e-mail updates by sending an e-mail to traffic.management@cityoflondon.gov.uk, these weekly details are on www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/streetworks

Why doesn’t the City Corporation tell people their road is about to be dug up as well?

The contractor has the most up to date information regarding the works, including how each individual premises will be affected, so the City makes it a requirement of all road closures, and a condition of all permit applications, that affected premises are informed of works by the contractor direct.

Coordination

Can the Corporation do more to coordinate road works?

The London Permit Scheme has generated more advanced contact from utilities to discuss works before they happen. It has encouraged more informed discussion before permit applications are submitted and because a fee is charged per application, it has discouraged speculative and time-wasting ‘just in case’ applications. To support this, the City is installing a new map-based Highway Management IT system that will allow greater visibility of planned works and include other background information on other highway activities such as crane operations, special events and scaffold licences. This will be implemented soon and should speed up coordination.

What is the difference between utility street works and the City's own road works?

Utility street works involve the digging of the roads or footways by a ‘Statutory Undertaker’ (ie a statutory utility or cable company), licensed by HM Government. The City’s own works to maintain, repair or improve the highway are technically known as ‘works for road purposes’.

Why do these companies dig up the road immediately after the City has resurfaced it?

When we resurface a road we serve a legal notice that prevents utilities from digging up the road for the next 12 – 60 months. Unfortunately there are exceptions for emergencies and for new services to customers. We share our resurfacing programme with the utilities which can and does lead to our resurfacing being done later – after a utility does its works.

Why does it always take longer than originally planned?

The vast majority of works in the Square Mile are completed within planned timings and sometimes ahead of schedule but it is very crowded under the Square Mile and utilities can never be certain of what is there until they start digging. Cellars and vaults are another problem because many extend under the road and information on their location is not always available. All this disrupts the planned work timings.

How can I contact you to complain about a certain street-work?

You can contact us on Freephone 0800 389 5908 or email us at streets@cityoflondon.gov.uk

Published:
21 May 2012
Last Modified:
16 October 2017

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