County Council’s position statement on energy pipe project

We are publishing the Chief Legal Officer’s email dated 29/12 in full. It explains why the County Council believes it has undertaken its role (limited to granting permission) lawfully but it is not ‘legal advice’ as such. Those wishing to explore the possibility of taking legal action will need to seek their own independent advice.

  • I am not aware of all the communication that has (or has not) taken place.  Clearly officers considered they should have done more and you have received an apology.  I am not sure I can add much to that.  I believe the County did urge the Trust to undertake consultation as they are the key players in this Scheme.  Fundamentally, the County’s role is to ensure they have permission to undertake work on the Highway – not unlike many applications for permission the Council receives…
  • In terms of Vital Energi – acting for the Trust – they have not claimed statutory powers to undertake works to the Highway – such as, say, a mainstream utility company.  The route for those who are not a statutory undertaker is to seek permission to undertake work from the Highway Authority.  Vital Energi are a licensee, not a statutory undertaker.  Having said that, it is a condition of the licence that they abide by the provisions of the New Roads and Street Works Act.
  • Licence applications were originally applied for in January 2014 but these were not granted although detailed discussions did take place about the work Vital Energi wanted to undertake.  That resulted, finally, in further applications being made on the 28 October 2015 and granted on the 21 December 2015 – I can confirm that the works would be classed a ‘major works’ for the purposes of the NRSWA.
  • Ordinarily a licence holder is required to give 3 months’ notice from the date when the licence is applied for, not from when it is granted.  The County agreed start dates within that 3 month period, mainly due to the proximity of other scheduled works and to start earlier was considered to be the least disruptive option.
  • As to the Executive Arrangements Regulations, the granting of a licence is a function delegated to officers.  It would not be a key decision because the County’s Constitution and the relevant Regulations define a ‘key decision’ as one which is likely to (a) involve the County in significant expenditure (which this does not) or (b): ‘to be significant in terms of its effects on communities living or working in an area comprising two or more electoral divisions in the County’
  • As will be clear, a licence has been granted on each individual street, not for the whole Scheme.  I am not aware (although have not checked in detail) that these would involve two electoral divisions.  However, even if they did, the term ‘significant’ is defined as 25% of the people living or working in the area.  I do not believe that that threshold has been met.  As such, the grant of the licences would not be a key decision which requires an Cabinet/Executive decision.
  • In terms of the subsoil, that is really a question for the Trust.  The County’s principal concern is with the Highway fabric and as much subsoil as is needed to keep the Highway intact.  The ownership of the subsoil and notification that may need to be made to the owners of that is, as I say, a matter for the Trust undertaking the work.
  • I would not profess to know the detail of the City’s planning powers, but certainly the County’s role is restricted to granting permission under the New Roads and Street Works Act to those who wish to install apparatus  in the Highway or break open the highway for this purpose.  Accepting that communications can always be improved, I believe we have carried out that function appropriately and lawfully.  I note you are seeking your own advice on the planning issue.
  • In terms of the parking issue I can confirm this has been actively considered and the County has agreed that affected residents may apply for Visitors Permits to park in adjoining streets, outside of their designated Controlled Parking Zone.  The issue of funding of that has yet to be addressed as between the County and the Trust, but that does not affect the right of residents to apply.

Details re the visitors’ parking permits follow in the next email.

We have asked for further details regarding the “proximity of other scheduled works” which was referred to above, so that we can understand why the period of notice of less than 3 months for major works was considered to be the least disruptive option – we are expecting a further email on this later in the week.

We have also queried the dates on the temporary traffic order notices issued on 29/12/15 – there is a discrepancy between dates displayed in notices on street and those on the TTRO for All Saints Road, and the end date for the Sandfield Road works is currently listed on the TTRO as Tuesday 22 April – it’s likely that this should read Friday 22 April but we are asking for clarification.

 

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