Powersystems explains Streets Works Licence

February 9, 2023

Whether you are installing electric cables or repairing a burst water pipe in a tarmac road, or any works being undertaken in or on a public highway requires a Section 50 Licence under the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991.

What is a street works or road opening licence? 

  • Any person or organisation who wishes to carry out works on a highway, will need to apply for a street works licence (Section 50 Licence)
  • You need permission from your local council to put equipment connected with digging into a public road on the street, this is in the form of a street works licence
  • It is essential that you obtain a licence before starting any highway works, as failing to do so can result in substantial fines and a requirement to remove the equipment and reinstate the highway at your cost
  • Any work in the public highway, for example where a new road connects to the existing public highway or works are planned within that highway, foot-way or footpath requires the approval of the local highway authority before commencement of any such works
  • A street works licence is required for members of the public or businesses to undertake works that involve digging up or altering a pavement or road

Powersystems can obtain a Section 50 streetworks licence on your behalf

  • As part of your project with us, Powersystems can also complete, submit and monitor the progress of Section 50 notice applications for highways works with the relevant Local Authority (LA)
  • This saves you the time taken to locate and complete the relevant forms and ensure that the LA issues approval when required; as we also carry out the utility search it also avoids having to co-ordinate more than one company to complete the application
  • It is particularly useful if many applications for different sites are needed – we can complete the application with the minimum input from yourselves and ensure your build programme is met

Your responsibilities under the NRSWA 1991 

  • Do not be fooled into thinking that a Section 50 notice only applies to large estates and utility companies
  • You don’t want to be reaching for the textbooks when a water pipe bursts or worse still, facing a fine and remedial works for unlicensed work. Even a simple understanding of the requirements can save significant time and money in an emergency
  • This is applicable to the whole of the UK.  It is referred to a Section 50 in England and Wales and a Section 109 in Scotland. Read More: The New Roads and Street Works Act 1991 (NRSWA) Section 50 Section (England and Wales) and Section 109 (Scotland) allows for permission to be granted by the local authority and permits ‘a person to place or retain apparatus in the street and thereafter inspect, maintain, adjust, repair, alter or renew the apparatus, change its position or remove it’. 
  • An application must be submitted to the appropriate local council with the appropriate fees. A notice period (from one week up to three months) is required depending on the classification of highway and the length of time you require the licence/permit for. 
  • No work is allowed on, over or under an adopted highway until these formalities have been completed. In addition to the above, the developer needs to comply with Part III of the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991  

The person or organisation granted a Street Works Licence (the “Licensee”) has significant responsibilities under the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991 (NRSWA), and therefore attracts the relevant duties and responsibilities imposed by the Act and associated Secondary Legislation and Codes of Practice

Please note that you as the licence holder (not the Contractor) are responsible, among other things, for ensuring the works: – 

  • have been notified to statutory undertakers (e.g. electricity, water, gas, telecoms) prior to starting; 
  • are carried out in a safe manner
  • are carried out in accordance with the NRSWA Codes of Practice
  • are supervised by an individual with the necessary NRSWA accreditation 
  • are undertaken by staff or contractors who have the necessary NRSWA accreditation
  • are guaranteed for the required duration
  • the contractor has the necessary Public Liability Insurance indemnifying the local council against any claim in respect of injury, damage or loss arising from the works, This cover should be maintained from commencement of the works on the highway, up to completion and acceptance by the local council at the time of the permanent reinstatement. 

Notice Period of works 

Typically, the notice periods will apply, although these do vary slightly from authority to authority. 

Type of works Advance notice prior to working Duration of works 
Emergency 2 hours post  Up to 2 days 
Minor without excavation  3 days 1 – 3 days 
Minor with excavation 3 days 1 – 3 days 
Standard 10 days 4 -10 days 
Major 3 months 11 days or more 

During the works  

The Local authority will monitor performance throughout all the following stages of street works:- 

  • Signing, guarding and excavation 
  • Signing, guarding and reinstatement 
  • Immediately after permanent reinstatement
  • Between 6 and 9 months after permanent reinstatement 
  • During the one month preceding the end of the guarantee period. (This will begin from the date the local authority is notified of the permanent reinstatement and will be for 2 years for excavations up to 1.5m deep and 3 years for excavations deeper than 1.5m). 

The “Duty of Care: Controlled Waste Transfer Note” must be completed where any waste from an excavation must be disposed of. This must be at an authorised waste disposal tip. For this, your contractor will need to complete Controlled Waste Transfer Note and arrange for the material to be transferred to the tip by a registered carrier of waste. A copy of the completed form must be kept by the licensee with a copy given to the person accepting the waste. 

Specification for reinstating the highway 

If any reinstatement fails to meet the standard required, the local authority will serve a defect notice upon the applicant requiring them to rectify the defect at their expense and to pay the appropriate fee to the authority.  If the applicant defaults, the authority may carry out any remedial work necessary and recover the costs from the applicant. 

On completion of the works  

The applicant must inform the local authority of the completion of works by the end of the following working day, stating whether it is interim or permanent. If an interim reinstatement is carried out this must be made permanent with six months and the local authority be informed. 

If you consider your contractor not working safely or in accordance with the NRSWA specification, tell them. After all, you are employing them to supply works to meet the NRSWA legislation! 

Carrying out the appropriate checks before commencing any work 

Under NRSWA and as a responsible contractor you should ensure that before you apply for a section 50/107 licence and certainly before you commence any digging you should find out what utility assets (pipes and cables) are in the ground in the area you are working in.  

There are various websites that you can access this information among these are:  


  • LinesearchbeforeUdig (LSBUD) is a free to use service that any individual can use to check their works against over 90 asset owners’ utility assets. 
  • These assets include hundreds of thousands of kilometres of underground and overhead pipes and cables in the electricity, gas, high pressure fuel, water, and fibre optic networks. 
  • The service processes over 3 million enquiries per annum- that’s more than one every 10 seconds. 


  • Digdat combine bespoke services with expert customer service and account management to ensure you provide the most accurate communication and information to your clients.  Utility company assets currently available on Digdat Utilities include; Anglian Water, Bristol Water, Thames Water, Virgin Media, Hafren Dyfrdwy, Severn Trent Water, Harlaxton Energy and Southern Water.   
  • In addition, Digdat Utilities offer the option to order prints of Ordnance Survey (OS) large scale maps, OS Master Map Topography Layer. 

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