Growth in the multi utility provider sector has created a situation that the original drafters of the s.50 of the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991(“NRSWA”) possibly did not envisage.
This possible stretching of the original drafting does create potential issues for multi utility and other providers when seeking to install apparatus in the street where that apparatus is not being installed under an existing statutory right. It can also create issues where a multi utility provider does hold a statutory right to install one supply. The holding of a statutory right in respect of, say, gas as an Independent Gas Transporter will not, of itself, provide a statutory right to install water, electricity or telecoms apparatus.
Unlike a party with a statutory right to install apparatus in the street, a party wishing to install utility apparatus in the street who does not hold that right is left having to secure a s.50 licence from the street authority.
The most frequently encountered problem by parties seeking s.50 licences are the terms demanded by the street authority. The cause of this is that there is not a right to a s.50 licence. S.50(1) of NRSWA confers a discretion on a street authority as to whether it grants a s.50 licence by its use of the wording “The street authority may grant a licence…..” (our emphasis added).
That discretion is not an absolute one. Like all authority decision making, the discretion must be exercised reasonably. Any unreasonable exercise of the discretion by a street authority may leave the authority open to Judicial Review.
We advise multi utility providers on s.50 licence issues. We also challenge authority decision making processes where that is the appropriate course of action.
Contact us if you would like to discuss how we might assist you in respect of s.50 licences.