The Department for Transport (DfT) is pushing ahead with major changes to permit scheme regulations despite 'significant' concerns raised by local authorities.
Subject to parliamentary process, all permit schemes will be required to make the necessary changes by 1 October, as ministers set about amending the 2007 Permit Scheme (England) Regulations.
Further detail of the transitional arrangements will be explained in the statutory instrument from the department, which will amend regulations. DfT officials will also write to the joint Chairs of the Highway Authorities and Utilities Committee 5 England) (HAUC (England)) on the practicalities.
Major changes to the 2007 regulations include requiring authorities to publish an evaluation of the permit scheme every year for the first three years and then every three years of operation thereafter. Permit authorities will also be unable to charge twice for a lane rental scheme and a permit scheme.
Plans put forward in the Deregulation Bill – currently going through parliament – will also remove the requirement for the secretary of state to approve schemes in England, instead they will be approved by a council’s own order. Schemes in Wales will still be approved by the appropriate national authority.
Of the 18 local authorities which responded to the consultation on whether the changes should be brought in by 1 October, all of them responded with concerns and raised 'significant issues'.
Councils suggested the transitional arrangements were unclear, with a lack of detailed information on how the changes would be introduced and operated.
In the DfT response, officials revealed that a sector 'Task Group' has been established to develop the statutory guidance, which will support the amendments to the regulations.
'The sector may also produce 'Codes of Practice' to support scheme development; and operational issues raised by authorities. Officials will discuss these with HAUC (England) and work with the sector to assist the transition to the use of the amended regulations,' DfT officials said.
As first revealed by Transport Network, the DfT response also confirmed 'that authorities will not be required to undertake formal consultation on the changes required to comply with the amended regulations'.
Concerns were also raised that adopting the changes would weaken local determination for a permit scheme. This was rejected by the government, which highlighted that 'permit schemes are not obligatory, but where implemented must conform to the regulations - not requiring existing schemes to move to the amended regulations would limit the benefits we believe the changes will bring'.
The government also rejected concerns that the changes would affect an existing scheme's cost benefit analysis. Officials said the government does 'not expect schemes to remain static, some schemes have already revised their fee structure, therefore a schemes original cost benefit analysis will naturally evolve as it develops'.
No significant concerns were raised by utilities or contractors. Senior sources in the sector have told Transport Network they approve of bringing standardisation to street works to help gangs working across different local authority boundaries.
'The change will remove the need for works’ promoters to comply with a variety of differing conditions and requirements across authority borders which can add complexity, confusion and administrative costs,' the DfT points out.