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Bucks permit charges anger utility firms

18 April 2020
 

Buckinghamshire County Council has rejected utility company criticisms of the decision to introduce charges for streetworks permits on all roads in the county.

Buckinghamshire’s permit scheme currently applies to all traffic sensitive streets and non traffic sensitive streets defined as reinstatement category 0, 1 or 2. This amounts to about 564 miles (28 per cent) of the county’s 2,026 miles of road. On all other roads a noticing system applies, whereby works promoters only have to inform the council of their intention to carry out works. 

Buckinghamshire’s streetworks team receives an average of 27 permit applications a day and 121 notices.  

Councillors have now approved plans to extend permitting to all roads and for a charge to be made for all permits. A 30 per cent discount on the permit fee will, however, apply in certain circumstances, including where activities are carried out outside traffic sensitive times, and for works undertaken in collaboration with other works promoters.

Utility companies have criticised the council’s decision not to issue permits for free on less busy streets.  

Responding to a consultation on the proposals, Openreach, part of BT Group, pointed to DfT guidance stating: “Unless there is a very strong benefit case otherwise, it is strongly recommended that permit fees are only applied to the more strategically significant roads: category 1, 2 roads and traffic sensitive street roads. This will mean that although permits would still be required for works on non-strategic routes, it should be very unlikely that these works would attract a permit fee. These permit applications would receive only ‘notice’ equivalent treatment by the authority.”

Energy company SSE said: “Whilst we agree moving to all permits is required, we are disappointed you are charging for permits on non-traffic sensitive streets, especially as you state you are going to use an automated process.”

Buckinghamshire has responded saying: “There is a clear benefit for requiring permits of category 3 and 4 [non-traffic sensitive] roads and charging a fee to cover the costs of additional resources to co-ordinate these activities.” 

Buckinghamshire calculates the benefits of the permit scheme at £1.332bn against costs of £22.2m, resulting in a Net Present Value (NPV) of £1.309bn and benefit:cost ratio of 60:1.

 
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