The Department for Transport (DfT) has opened a public consultation on proposals for a standardised road works permit scheme. The proposals may be attractive on paper but in practice will probably fail in some aspects due to the vagaries of the British weather.  For when it comes to road works it could simply be a case of rain stops play with unwarranted severe consequences for contractors.

Under the plans, the DfT will allow council chief executives to sign-off local permit schemes rather than applying for central government permission. A key area of this new policy will be the standardisation of permit conditions. Permit schemes require anyone carrying out road works to apply for a permit in advance with local councils setting out work conditions.

“By their very nature standardised permits can be inflexible. No one job is the same as another”, said Howard Robinson, chief executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA). “Furthermore permitting has the potential to be unworkable due to the weather. Road surfacing treatments are weather dependent. If it is raining or temperatures are freezing then work cannot be undertaken.”

With a permit only allowing work on predetermined days, adverse weather could prevent road surface treatments being carried out during the prescribed time. Given the vagaries of the British weather this scenario could be repeated throughout the road surfacing season resulting in an increase in contractors’ costs in turn leading to an increase in contractor rates and less value for road budgets.

“The proposed permit schemes must take full account of the fact that road surfacing work is subject to clement weather conditions.  Road contractors can provide cost effective and long-lasting road surfaces but they cannot predict the weather,” said Robinson.