New Roads and Street Works Act 1991: Code of Practice for the Co-ordination of Works in Roads

Chapter 8 The Completion of Works within Reasonable Periods

8.1 One of the issues which gives the greatest cause for complaint from the public is when an excavation is made in a road and work then ceases for a significant period of time.

8.2 Section 125 of NRSWA states:

"125. Avoidance of unnecessary delay or obstruction.

(1) An undertaker executing road works which involve:
(a) breaking up or opening the road, or any sewer, drain or tunnel under it; or
(b) tunnelling or boring under the road,
shall carry on and complete the works with all such dispatch as is reasonably practicable.
(2) An undertaker who fails to do so commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale.
(3) Where an undertaker executing any road works creates an obstruction in a road to a greater extent or for a longer period than is reasonably necessary, the road works authority may by notice require him to take such reasonable steps as are specified in the notice to mitigate or discontinue the obstruction.
(4) If the undertaker fails to comply with such a notice within 24 hours of receiving it, or such longer period as the authority may specify, the authority may take the necessary steps and recover from him the costs reasonably incurred by them in doing so."

8.3 The key aims of this chapter are to ensure that:

  • road works authorities are aware that there is a facility within the SRWR to issue Section 125(3) notices in appropriate circumstances; and
  • works promoters executing works in roads are aware of the need to complete their works within reasonable periods.

8.4 Given that an undertaker which fails to complete road works with such dispatch as is reasonably practicable commits an offence, undertakers are expected to ensure that before commencing road works, they have the necessary resources in place to allow them to carry on and complete the works with all such dispatch as is reasonably practicable.

8.5 Where an undertaker has commenced road works and then discovers that it cannot carry on and complete the works with all such dispatch as is reasonably practicable, it should either:

  • backfill and reinstate the excavation; or
  • plate the excavation if that is a safe option in the circumstances, and return when it is in a position to carry on and complete the works.

This is particularly important on traffic sensitive roads where the impacts on road users could be significant.

8.6 It should be noted that the advice at paragraphs 8.4 and 8.5 above is equally applicable to road works authorities.

8.7 It is recognised that there will be occasions when unforeseen difficulties mean that works cannot progress as quickly as originally planned. On such occasions, an undertaker complying with its general duty to co-operate should alert the road works authority at the earliest possible opportunity to allow discussion to take place as to how the works can be completed as quickly as possible with a view to minimising unnecessary delay or disruption. Notices under section 125(3) of NRSWA should therefore only be issued in circumstances where such co-operation is not forthcoming and excessive obstructions or delays occur without adequate explanation by the undertaker.