In recent months residents and drivers have called out Utility companies for not removing temporary traffic lights when work had seemingly finished. But what are the actual rulings behind traffic management controls and what can you do if you are not happy?

In a most recent case, traffic controls were left in place over a whole weekend on Buncer Lane, Blackburn when work on a pavement had been completed. Pictures showed the safety barriers taken down and piled on the ground. 

The Lancashire Telegraph was told by United Utilities that the lights would be removed on the Sunday. But despite this promise they were only taken down a day later, causing long tailbacks and misery for commuters and visitors to Witton Park High School during rush hour.

A resident who lives nearby had said: “This is just lazy on the part of the contractor. You can quite easily put these lights aside on Friday night. It is causing disruption for motorists.”

We decided to explore why Utility companies are able to keep lights in place for several days.

All utility companies require a permit to work on the highway network. This is broken down into two categories – planned and unplanned. 

For planned works, the lead time from application to starting works is determined by the duration of the works. 

For works of a duration up to three working days, the application lead time is three working days and the local authority has two working days to assess the application and respond. 

For works of a duration between 4 to 10 working days, the application lead time is 10 working days and authorities have 5 working days to assess the application and respond. 

For works above 11 working days, or any works that involve a Temporary Traffic Regulation Order (TTRO) such as a road closure, the application lead time is 3 months and authorities have 1 month to assess the application and respond.

For immediate (urgent/emergency) works, the process is slightly different. These works are required to end or prevent circumstances which may be existing or imminent, that might cause damage to people or property, or works required to prevent or put an end to an unplanned interruption of any supply or service. 

Due to this, works have already begun with no advance permit application being made. They are however, legally required to apply for a permit within two working hours of works starting.

What are councils doing to see whether contractors are causing unnecessary traffic issues? 

All permit applications are assessed to determine their impact on the network.
For works involving traffic management, local authorities will look at what works are required to be completed and do they feel that traffic management is required for that activity. They also look at whether alternative measures be put in place to prevent temporary lights being used.

In the case of immediate works – local authorities say they do not have the luxury of assessing applications in advance and will impose conditions similarly to the above if they have not been included in the immediate application and we feel they are required to minimise disruption.

What checks are taking place?

Local authorities have teams of three Permit Inspectors out on the network who check live sites daily to ensure that the relevant conditions are being met, and that sites are safe and secure to protect the public. 
Are contractors charged day rates?
Utility companies are charged a single fee for their initial permit to carry out works, this charge is determined by the duration of the works (in working days), and the type of road they are working on (calculated by the number of million standard axels).

So, what happened on Buncer Lane?

In the case of Buncer Lane, this work was defined as ‘immediate to repair a leaking water main’, therefore works started on site immediately at 10.20am on Friday 23 September. An immediate permit application was submitted to at 12:02pm on that same day.

We have been told work to reinstate the highway was completed on Friday afternoon. It was not possible, however for the traffic management to be removed as soon as works were completed, as ‘the tarmac requires sufficient time to cool down and set’. 

Tarmac is laid at around 190 degrees and cools down to around 110 degrees after the material being compacted. Therefore, the traffic management company did not attend the site and remove the temporary signals on Friday evening.

Yet, images do show the work has been carried out on the pavement and not on the road so removing the lights would not have had an affect on the tarmac.

We have also been told that on Buncer Lane the duration was 3 working days on a type 2 traffic sensitive road, a permit application charge of £54 was applied. More generally, permit application charges range from £30 to £327.

What can residents and motorists do if they are not happy?
Residents and drivers can check the roadworks mapping available at to see details of all network activity around Blackburn with Darwen

This allows forward planning of expected disruption on the network and if journeys need to be adjusted to avoid a particular area of the highway network whilst works takes place. gives information on responsibility for the works, works location, traffic management and works description. 

The responsibility for the works is a link which takes them through to their website where contact can be made with the company if required. The best way to reach the team is via their Facebook Page – Blackburn with Darwen Roads to which will react almost instantly to any arising issues on the roads.