Permit schemes explained
As of 2015, highways authorities in England wishing to introduce a permit scheme will no longer need the Secretary of State’s approval. Changes to the 2004 Traffic Management Act and 2007 Permit Scheme Regulations, places the onus on the authority to demonstrate their proposed scheme complies with existing legislation.
As the authority itself will be empowered to approve their own scheme without it going through an external review process, it is now more important than ever that any future schemes are designed to comply with legislation and best practice. Following industry and local best practice, along with early active engagement with interested parties will help with the design and smooth implementation of a successful scheme.
Introducing a permit scheme brings a host of benefits to the authority, principally it brings network management best practice to the forefront of activities as well as other tangible benefits such as supporting better planning of the authorities own works. By encouraging better forward planning and collaborative working, the highway authority is able to reduce the number and duration of works on the network. This reduction in works and occupation of the network will ultimately cut congestion and the level of complaints it generates.
By actively engaging with works promoters, the authority is best placed to coordinate the activities on its network, protecting its asset from being repeatedly dug up, and ensuring where it does need to be closed for any reason that multiple organisations can work collaboratively to get more work done with less disruption overall. Well-designed schemes can act as an enabler to bring in dedicated coordination resources; these resources have the power and time to focus on the coordination of activities on the network as well as monitoring compliance on the network.
To realise the most benefit from a scheme, any authority considering its own scheme will need to understand the demands on its network from all its users including, members of the public, its own highway works and statutory undertakers. This network intelligence can then be used to define a strategy and resource requirements to balance these demands, to maximise network availability and reduce congestion and customer complaints caused by works.
Without a clear direction both new and existing schemes run the risk of being ineffective and inefficient. Placing a disproportionate burden on works promoters may lead to reduced engagement and innovation within the sector and in severe cases legal challenges against the scheme. Both these outcomes have undesired outcomes for the highway authorities and statutory alike.