Permits could see companies fined for lengthy roadworks
COUNCILLORS want to end the "frustrating" sight of roadworks with no workmen present by introducing a scheme that could see companies fined for delays.
Both Derby and Derbyshire councils said utility firms often take too long to complete works as there is "no incentive" for them to be efficient.
It has led to motorists facing unnecessary disruption, say senior councillors.
In a bid to combat the issue, Derby City Council has applied to the Government for the right to introduce a permit scheme, while the county council is consulting on whether to follow suit.
Under the scheme, organisations that want to dig up roads will need to apply for a permit first, giving councillors powers to lay down conditions to try to minimise potential traffic delays.
Companies that break the agreed conditions, or carry out work without a permit, will have to pay a fine.
The city's cabinet member for neighbourhoods, Councillor Ranjit Banwait, confirmed yesterday: "We submitted an application for the introduction of permits to the Department for Transport last week. We expect to know the outcome of the bid early in the New Year."
Under the current system, utility companies have statutory powers that give them unlimited access to carry out works on the road network.
This means that councils are obliged to co-operate with requests for road closures.
County councillor Simon Spencer, cabinet member for highways, said he wanted "more control" over works on Derbyshire roads.
At their latest cabinet meeting, members agreed to proceed towards the introduction of a permit scheme by launching a consultation with stakeholders.
Mr Spencer said he fully supported such a move. He added: "We all face the frustration and get angry at having to sit at traffic lights that are left for unnecessary periods of time.
"It often takes workmen two to three weeks to do work that should be done in two to three days."
Mr Spencer acknowledged that the county council's own highways department carries out road repairs.
Asked whether it meant the authority could end up fining itself for delays, Mr Spencer said: "It's a fair point and one that's going to be discussed."
A spokesman for the National Joint Utilities Group insisted permit schemes are not necessary. He said: "Councils already have a range of powers to manage utility street works and the majority of councils report very high levels of compliance with reports of 96% and over of utility works being completed within the agreed times."