Road closures for street parties
Advice to Councils
Most councils do not make any charge for temporary road closures for small street parties, even when there is no national event such as a jubilee etc. Even a small charge puts residents off and anymore than £50 is in effect stopping them happening at all.
If councils want to charge, perhaps as a result of privatising their highways’ services, they can follow Southampton’s example of arranging monthly batch closing dates and funding the shared charge amongst closures – see here.
There used to be a problem with charges due to regulations and unnecessary advertising of road closure orders. But as a result of our long campaign the Government removed this problem.
Also, the Department of Transport has written to councils (download the letter) saying that:
“..for most small organised street parties that don’t affect the wider road network, there is no requirement in law for local authorities to advertise proposed closures or carry out consultations. Neither are specific signs or other traffic management equipment required. Local authorities should act proportionately, wisely, and in the public interest – and highways law does not stop them doing that”.
This provides ample support for authorities to avoid charges to residents. Even a £50 charge is a total show stopper for less well off communities, and can dampen the goodwill of better off communities. And small charges would in any case provide insignificant income to councils. The more you charge the fewer the applications.
Councils need to make a simple decision about whether they support residents’ street parties or not. Charges mean there will be very few; no charges mean that these important community-building events are at least possible.
Street parties should not be confused with larger community festivals with budgets and complex arrangements. Street parties referred to here are private events limited to the residents and without external publicity. Nor are they usually held in busy roads and so there are few traffic implications.
Street parties are powerful social events as most residents attend, mixing all ages and backgrounds, and the events are usually self-organised and funded and usually quite low key. They are usually low risk events to the residents and to councils.
Keeping Procedures Simple and Cheap
Council road closure teams have a key role to play. Though building communities is not their main task, they are often the first contact and their procedures are critical in supporting residents to make the necessary arrangements.
We identified Best Practice on road closures in the UK and includes:
- Simple and accessible road closure application form on your council website.
- Make a clear distinction between small neighours events and public events – see here.
- Use the Town & Police Clauses Act 1847 if you can as it enables flexibility.
- Temporary road closure notices are placed on the internet instead of placing advertisements in the local press.
- No charges for the road closure service.
- No need to refer to any Safety Advisory Group.
- Low officer time by requiring residents to consult neighbours, and perhaps even the police, fire and ambulance services, and to display the order.
- Require residents to provide, erect and supervise road signs and barriers. Suggest where they may borrow signs, or hire or even buy them for future use.
- Any agreement or conditions to be signed by the ‘applicant’ not event organiser as they cannot tell their neighbours what to do.
- Provide information about and signposting to other relevant council services such as licensing.
- Normally a street party would not require a Temporary Event Notice as usually nothing is being sold and any ‘performance’ is incidental to the event.
Public Liability Insurance
We appeal to councils/Highways Authorities to NOT ‘require’ a blanket Public Liability Insurance as the risks of liability to the Council or Highways Authority from a small street party are very low. At most recommending it is adequate for your duty of care.
The cost of insurance is a block for residents, though they may choose to purchase it themselves, usually at a low level of cover such as only £1 million. £5m commonly demanded would cover 2 deaths and resurfacing of the road, which is very unlikely! and so cannot be justified. Larger public events where the risk of liability is higher would, however, need full insurance cover.
Instead, the council can indemnify itself using conditions and disclaimer clauses, for example on a road closure application form, making clear the requirements and responsibilities of the residents. A Best Practice Example is shown below.
See our more detailed guidance on this issue.
Bristol City Council uses the Town Police Clauses Act 1847 for about 150 events a year. They make a clear distinction from public events and their simple application form is downloadable from their website.
They require only 8 weeks notice and they do not charge residents as each application takes less than an hour of officer time. They provide notices about road closures on the internet. They only recommend Public Liability Insurance and cover the indemnity issue by using a strongly worded indemnity / conditions clause in the application form.
Important note: This guidance note is to help councils to consider their procedures, but it is not intended to constitute a complete list of organisational arrangements, responsibilities or liabilities for the planning of a street party or event. Seek professional advice if councils or organisers are in any doubt as we do not accept responsibility for any event it is not directly involved in organising.