By Marcus Leach
Changes to streamline the process local councils and the Highways Agency must go through when introducing new traffic restrictions were put forward today (Monday) by Transport Minister Norman Baker.
Councils wanting to bring in controls on their roads — for example to allow road works to take place or to vary parking restrictions — must put in place a Traffic Regulation Order detailing what the controls cover. Currently, councils and the Highways Agency must advertise in local newspapers both when these orders are proposed and when they come into effect.
The Department estimates that these adverts cost councils and the Highways Agency around £20 million every year - around 60 per cent of these costs are covered by the taxpayer with the rest being paid for by businesses such as utilities and property developers when arrangements are made to allow them to carry out works on the road.
Today's proposals will remove the need to advertise in local newspapers and will instead give local authorities the freedom to publicise changes to those likely to be affected in ways that they think will reach them best. Councils would still have to publicise changes but could choose different means such as advertising on local websites, displaying notices in the area or distributing leaflets on affected roads.
They may still choose to use local newspaper advertising where they think that is the best way to target their audience. Putting these decisions into the hands of local councils forms part of the Government-wide drive to get rid of unnecessary regulation under the Red Tape Challenge, and to allow local councils more freedom.
"It is right that residents and businesses are told about changes to their local roads," Norman Baker said.
"But councils and the Highways Agency should have the freedom to use their local knowledge to decide how best to do this rather than being forced to spend taxpayers’ money on indiscriminate advertising.
"These changes will save council taxpayers, the Highways Agency and businesses millions of pounds that they will now be able to spend on improving services for local residents."
At the same time as relaxing the current requirements for local authorities to consult specific organisations, the Department is proposing to add a requirement for traffic authorities to consult town or parish and district councils in order to improve local engagement.
The consultation opens today and closes on 23rd April 2012.
Today also sees new rules coming in to place which will mean that councils will no longer need Whitehall approval to introduce certain traffic signs. These changes will add more signs to the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions so that councils can use them without gaining specific approval, reducing bureaucracy for local councils and giving them greater flexibility.
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