Severn Trent Water fined £56,000 for misuse of road closure powers in Shropshire

Severn Trent Water has been ordered to pay more than £56,000 for unnecessary disruption to the public on Shropshire Council’s highways network.

It’s due to misuse of the statutory powers that enable utilities companies to close a road for work classified as “emergency/urgent work” without prior planning or notification.

At Telford Magistrates Court on Monday 23 October [2023], Severn Trent pleaded guilty to 10 offences and must now pay a penalty of £37,600, plus costs and a victims’ surcharge – a total of £56,695.60.

The prosecution was brought by Shropshire Council.

The 10 offences related to work carried out across the Shropshire Council area between September 2022 and February 2023.

The court heard that these offences caused unwarranted inconvenience to the public and in some instances compromised public safety.

Chris Schofield, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for planning and regulatory services, said:

“Shropshire Council is responsible for regulating works taking place on our network of roads and any avoidable breaches that disrupt the flow of traffic and safety of the network are taken extremely seriously, as this prosecution shows.

“All of these offences arose from of a misuse of the statutory legislation that is designed to enable utilities companies to engage with the council in respect of planned works being undertaken on the highways network.

“If correctly used the legislation enables pre-planning to reduce the impact of such works on the road users, local communities and businesses, thus reducing inconvenience.

“Severn Trent Water has increasingly mis-used the immediate works categories which undermines the necessity to undertake prior planning and notification to both the council and other stakeholders.

“This misuse of immediate permits has caused unwarranted inconvenience to the public, and compromised the council’s ability to comply with its duties. This is also reflected in the high volume of complaints being received by council officers in relation to the disruption caused by Severn Trent’s work.”

Work carried out on the public highway by a utility or private company which may unsettle/excavate or temporarily obstruct the highway requires permission from Shropshire Council. Work can be classed as immediate (emergency/urgent work), or as major, minor or standard.

Work is categorised by expected duration, except for that classified as immediate, which is not time specific and is able to be carried out without prior planning or notification.

It is not acceptable to use an immediate works permit to bypass correct planning and communication procedures which result in the public being unnecessarily inconvenienced.


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