Clause 81 of the New Roads and Street Act 1991 is your friend

You may have been following some of my travails trying to get repairs made to some of those telephone, broadband, traffic light etc boxes which appear on many pavements.

Although  my own local council (Islington) is very good at dealing with them either directly themselves or passing on to the relevant company and ensuring the work is done, other councils, including Haringey and Westminster, are far less so.

Haringey in theory also gets the job done if a member of the public reports a problem to them, but in practice I’ve often found problems of things going wrong or being forgotten.

Worst of the lot has been Westminster Council, who not only sent me off on wild goose chases claiming that a box is TfL’s responsibility (when it isn’t) and then that it’s BT’s (when it isn’t) but also in both cases left it to me to contact BT and TfL. All round Westminster so far don’t seem too bothered that staff give out wrong, and at times flatly contradictory, information and nor does Westminster Council seem to feel it has any responsibility for ensuring such utility boxes are kept in good repair. Instead they view it as a matter for the utility company and me.

Which is where Clause 81 of the New Roads and Streets Act 1991 comes in useful. In short, the law says that firms who plonk boxes on our pavements have to look after them, and if they don’t the local authority responsible for the pavements can take legal action. The local authority also has the power to carry out work itself if the company doesn’t.

Westminster so far seem curiously unaware of this legal power, so in case anyone else has run into trouble with other councils unwilling to make use of the power the law gives them – or is unaware of it – you can find the relevant clause to quote at them here.

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This entry was posted in Local government.


  • Andrew Houseley 8th Feb '10 - 12:43pm

    I’m so sorry, I live in a rural area where broadband speeds are lamentable so feel entitled to ask (while crunching on a carrot) – What is a broadband box? We do have a couple of public phone kiosks that BT tried to remove or get us to adopt without any phone and, having won that battle in an area with poor mobile reception, are refusing to maintain.
    But that’s probably not quite the same thing. Choice of broadband services is pretty uncompetitive too, I’m told because of lack of slots in the local exchanges as well as limited unbundling by BT (them again).
    Back on topic, I would have thought that all councils wherever they are would need to be pressurised and kicked into taking legal action, or adding to their highways job log and then claiming the costs back from the comms. provider. A street survey?

  • Joe Taylor Condliffe 8th Feb '10 - 2:21pm

    Is that the one giving councils the power to issue Defacement Removal Notices?

    A very useful power, the threat of which got Telewest to remove graffiti from 50 green telecoms junction boxes in my ward!

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