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Highway authorities fight new liability

HIGHWAY AUTHORITIES have expressed outrage at a proposed amendment to the New Roads and Street Works Act that would make them financially liable for damage to roads caused by utilities.

The Institute of Highway Incorporated Engineers has asked the Department of Environment Transport and the Regions to reconsider appendix 12 of the amendments relating to the 'reinstatement of openings in highways'.

In a letter sent to the DETR at the start of the month the Institute warned: 'If statutory undertakers pursue claims for the cost of the slabs and associated works outside the limits of their trench, highway authorities would need to find money which they don't have for works they do not plan, determine or implement.'

Street works manager at Bexley Council Jo Atkinson called on highway authorities to fight the threat to the current principle of 'he who digs pays'.

She said: 'If statutory undertakers pursue claims for the cost of slabs outside the limits of their trench, local authorities would need to divert millions of pounds of their highway maintenance budgets for works which they are not party to implementing.'

Under appendix 12 of the revised Act statutory undertakers would be allowed to take photographs of broken slabs before they started work and without consulting highways authorities. Atkinson claimed it would then be possible for repairs to be claimed even if they didn't relate to the works.

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