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Financial penalties for utility companies which fail to give proper notice of street works introduced

Financial penalties for utility companies which fail to give proper notice of street works introduced

DEPARTMENT FOR TRANSPORT News Release (072) issued by The Government News Network on 13 May 2008

New powers allowing councils to financially penalise utility companies which fail to give proper notice that they intend to dig up the roads have come into force, Transport Minister Rosie Winterton announced today.

Following last month's strengthening of powers to better co-ordinate when street works are carried out, councils can now issue Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) to any utility company which fails to give correct notice before digging up the roads. This new tool will improve the quality of the information councils use to co-ordinate street works, reducing disruption for all road users, residents and local businesses.

Transport Minister Rosie Winterton said:

"Disruption from street works costs the economy about £4.9 billion each year and ongoing roadworks are among road users' biggest concerns. These Fixed Penalty Notices are an additional new tool to encourage utility companies to give accurate and timely notices of works, thus helping councils co-ordinate street works, reducing disruption for road users, residents and businesses.

"Utility companies need to dig up the road to maintain essential services such as gas, electricity and water. However, they need to follow the rules we have put in place."

New street works regulations came into force last month, giving councils the ability to insist that utility companies give longer notice periods before starting works - improving co-ordination and making it possible to prevent multiple works in different streets in the same area at the same time.

FPNs can be issued against utilities for certain offences, such as failing to give councils enough notice about major works and not telling councils when the works are completed. Previously, councils had to take court action.

Authorities already have the power to charge undertakers, such as utility companies, if their works take longer than planned. Charges currently range from £100 to £2,000 a day.

Notes to Editors

1. The New Roads and Street Works Act 1991 (NRSWA) sets out the regulatory regime for works in the street carried out by undertakers. This was amended by the Traffic Management Act (TMA) 2004.

2. If utility companies commit an offence by failing to meet requirements for giving notice of works or their completion, then councils can now deal with the offence through giving a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) rather than go through the time consuming process of taking them to a Magistrates' Court. An FPN for a noticing offence is £120, reducing to £80 if paid within 29 days.

FPNs can be given for the following seven NRSWA noticing offences:

 Offence                           Description
       An offence under s.54(5)          Failure to comply with duties
                                         under s.54
       An offence under s.55(5)          Beginning to execute works in
                                         contravention of s.55
       An offence under s.55(9)          Failure to give cancellation
                                         notices
       An offence under s.57(4)          Failure to give notice of
                                         emergency works
       An offence under s.70(6)          Failure to comply with
       consisting of a failure to comply requirements to give notice of
       with subsection (3) or (4A)       completion of reinstatement
       An offence created by regulations Failure to give a notice actual
       made under s.74(7B)               start date or revised durations,
                                         works clear or closed.
       An offence created by regulations Failure to a notice actual start
       made under s.74A (11)             date or revised durations, works
                                         clear or closed. 


3. Councils may still decide to prosecute these offences. The maximum fine that Magistrates can impose for such offences is £2,500 in addition to costs.

4. Over-running works. Authorities already have the power to charge undertakers if their works take longer than planned. Charges currently range from £100 to £2,000 a day.

5. Changes to the street works system which came into force last month include:

* Undertakers, mainly utility companies, have to give longer notice periods before starting works. Previously it was one month for major works - from 1 April it changed to three months.

* Councils can now impose conditions - for example, they can stop the companies doing work during rush hour or after a particular time.

* The power for local authorities to direct the time or days when work takes place was extended to works already started that have caused more disruption than anticipated.

* If the work causes more disruption than anticipated a council can direct that the size of the works are reduced.

* Councils can also prevent non-emergency street works from taking place for up to five years in a particular street after major works.

* Councils can also apply to the Secretary of State to operate a permit scheme. The fundamental objective of which is to create a common procedure that positively controls all works in the street carried out by both councils and utility companies.

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Department for Transport Website: http://www.dft.gov.uk

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