Almost everyone involved in planning will have a horror story about a difficulty of getting agreement with a highway authority. Excessive costs, unrealistic bonds, terrible delays, prescriptive requirements, odd programme and access conditions will have confronted and confounded most of us. So how about abolishing s278 of the Highways Act?
If planning permission for a development including highways works is granted then that should, automatically, allow access to the highway to carry out the works. This would have to be subject to a national set of standard terms and conditions that would include provisions about notice, works co-ordination and supervision costs. After all, the statutory undertakers have rights to access the highway and this would simply be an extension of those rights to those with the benefit of planning permission. Like the utilities, the approach could be subject to a best endeavours obligation to minimise disruption, and potentially to lane rental type payments if the construction period is prolonged. In complicated cases, a highway authority might want additional control. They would need to persuade the planning authority that that was necessary. If successful the requirement could then be included as a condition on the planning permission.
Importantly, as part of the standard conditions debate we could settle, properly, some of the contentious (and time wasting) debates about who bears the cost of future maintenance of street furniture, bonds for the cost of protecting utility equipment and having a clear process of certification for adoption. We could all better use the time saved to improve the proposed developments.