Highways, street works and statutory undertakers
Produced in partnership with Nicholas Hancox of Nicholas Hancox Solicitors Ltd and Alistair Frew of Lodders LLP
Highways, street works and statutory undertakers

The following Local Government guidance note Produced in partnership with Nicholas Hancox of Nicholas Hancox Solicitors Ltd and Alistair Frew of Lodders LLP provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Highways, street works and statutory undertakers
  • Street works at common law
  • Street works—liability in negligence
  • Street works and statutory undertakers—statutory law
  • Street works
  • Statutory undertakers
  • Street works licences
  • The street works register
  • Notice of new street works
  • Co-operation
  • more

Street works at common law

At common law it is a nuisance to interfere with the surface of a highway. When the nineteenth-century utility companies began work and used the highways as routes for their underground pipes and cables, many of them found that, without statutory authority and despite them being the most obvious routes, they were prevented by the courts from using the highways for their apparatus. The Sheffield Gas and Cambridge Gas cases illustrate the point.

Street works—liability in negligence

Even when authorised by statute to interfere with or use the highway for utility works and apparatus, the statutory undertakers and those with street works licences owe a duty of care to (other) highway users. There are often quite specific requirements in a street works licence about fencing off the excavation and about the managing of pedestrian and vehicular traffic past the works, but the common law requirements also apply. See, for example:

  1. Holliday v National Telephone

  2. Scott v Mayor, Aldermen and Citizens of the City of Manchester

  3. Maxwell v British Thomson Houston

  4. Blake v Thirst

Street works and statutory undertakers—statutory law

The current statutory law on street works and statutory undertakers is in the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991 (NRSWA 1991) and a raft of statutory instruments thereunder, some of the more