The following Local Government practice 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:
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.
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:
Holliday v National Telephone
Scott v Mayor, Aldermen and Citizens of the City of Manchester
Maxwell v British Thomson Houston
Blake v Thirst
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 important and relevant of which are:
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