Motorists may soon face less disruption on their journey to work as East Sussex County Council takes greater control of roadworks.
From November utility companies will have to apply for a permit to carry out any work on East Sussex roads and pay a fee for permission to work on the busier roads in the county.
The new scheme will prevent work starting on the county’s busiest roads during rush hour, encourage companies to carry out work at the same time using the same trenches, and control where workers park their vehicles – reducing disruption for drivers.
East Sussex County Council will be able to issue fines for overrunning work and work taking place outside the conditions of the permit.
It will also mean tougher penalties for inadequate road repairs by utilities companies, who will face a second charge for a permission to return and repair the road properly.
The South East Permit Scheme is a joint venture between East Sussex and Surrey County Councils and was recently approved by the Secretary of State for Transport. It will ensure a consistent approach between the neighbouring authorities.
“Utility companies have no choice but to dig up East Sussex roads when work needs to be carried out,” said Cllr Carl Maynard, Lead Member for transport and the Environment, “but we need to make sure the disruption to motorists using our roads in minimal.
“The new permit scheme will enable the council to be more proactive in controlling when and where roadworks are carried out.”
Currently, utility companies only have to give notice that they are carrying out work, leaving East Sussex County Council to liaise with companies to minimise congestion.
The new way of working will mean the council can attach conditions to permits preventing work from being carried out at certain times during the day and stopping several companies working on different parts of a road at the same time.
“It is important to keep traffic moving around East Sussex,” Cllr Maynard added. “Conditions can be attached to permits to make sure commuters are not held up and school traffic can flow freely and safely.
“The council can also stop utility companies starting work when we know big community events are being held.
“Although there will be times when emergency work is needed, the new scheme should allow the council to have greater control over who is digging up our roads and when.”
The permit scheme, which will come into effect in November, will apply on all roads in East Sussex. Fixed penalties of £300 can be imposed for companies starting work earlier and working later than their permit allows, and up to £3,000 a day can be charged for overrunning work.