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Lane rental scheme moves a step closer

Cheshire East is to drive ahead with plans to introduce a lane rental scheme to speed up the time utility companies take digging up roads to carry out repairs.

Under the scheme, highways authorities can charge companies for the time roadworks occupy their busiest routes (writes local democracy reporter Belinda Ryan).

The maximum charge is £2,500 a day.

Head of highways Domenic de Bechi told a recent meeting of the Highways and Transport Committee: “It’s a set of arrangements to help a highways authority manage traffic on its highway network, particularly through the management of street works and coordinating them to the times when the network is least busy.

“It does that through a charging mechanism, which essentially gives an incentive for utilities and statutory undertakers to time their works on the network at the least busy times.”

He added: “Although it involves charging, it’s important to stress that it shouldn’t be viewed as a source of income.

“Any surplus money that comes from the scheme will be used in line with the DfT guidance to mitigate the impact of street works on our network.”

Conservative group leader Janet Clowes, who first suggested the scheme to the Corporate Policy Committee in February 2023, said: “I’m delighted that it has finally come to this committee, albeit over a year late.

“I am disappointed that actually we are only starting from scratch now, so that we won’t see any benefits to this until the next financial year 25/26.”

Willaston councillor Allen Gage asked: “Why has it taken over a year to get the ball rolling on this, particularly when it was voted through cross-party 14 months ago and we’re really only starting on this endeavour now?”

He was told the delay had been caused by recruitment and retention issues in the highways department.

Coun Mike Sewart (Poynton) wanted to know why it would take another seven months to put together a scheme to submit to the DfT.

Mr de Bechi said it involved looking at the impact of the scheme on council’s finances, particularly in regard to existing street works permits, and a period of consultation.

He said they also had to ensure they were applying it to the right parts of the network – it can only be applied to 5% of the council’s road network.

The committee was unanimous in backing the scheme, which will now be consulted on.
After consultation, the proposal will be brought back to the committee in November for approval prior to applying to the secretary of state for permission to implement the scheme.

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