Kent

Utility firms may pay Kent County Council to dig up roads

Utility firms will have to pay up to £2,000 a day to dig up the busiest roads under a scheme being considered by Kent County Council.

The council said it wanted to be the first local authority outside a city to charge utility companies for digging up roads at inconvenient times.

Head of highways operations, Spencer Palmer, said the scheme would reduce traffic delays across the county.

The National Joint Utilities Group (NJUG) said it was a sensible approach.

Mr Palmer said: "This will provide a clear financial incentive for the firms to finish works quickly, or carry out works at off-peak times, to avoid the costs."

'Heavily regulated'

He said different fees would apply to different roads, with charges applying all year at peak times around commercial centres such as Maidstone, Dartford and Canterbury, but only during holiday seasons on tourist routes such as Margate seafront.

He also said a successful scheme would be one that did not make money because roadworks were being carried out without disruption.

The planned scheme would cover about 5% of Kent's 5,000-mile network, he added.

NJUG chief executive Les Guest said: "Utilities are already heavily regulated, and have to work as efficiently effectively and economically as possible anyway. But this is a new scheme that is coming in outside of London."

He said the council had targeted the scheme to be as fair as possible and had made sure there were opportunities for utility firms to work outside peak times and work around the seasons, so they could stick to normal operating budgets.

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