Fisher, Sean (2012) “We’ll All Take The High Road”: Is There Evidence Of An Evolving 'Partnership‘ Approach To The Management Of 'Highway Works‘? Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

This study sets out to examine whether there was an evolving partnership approach emerging in England in the management of ‗highway works‘, which are works carried out in the highway by companies providing utility services such as gas, water, electricity, and telecommunications, and by local authorities undertaking the repair and maintenance of their highway networks. Local government in England has been extensively covered in academic literature, but the management of ‗highway works‘ is an area that has not been widely covered. It is an area that is currently receiving more widespread attention generally as local authorities implement ‗permit schemes‘, which were introduced by the Government in response to concerns about the disruption and delay caused by ‗highway works‘ and the associated cost to the national economy. There are currently a small number of ‗permit schemes‘ in operation in England, including schemes in London (2010), Kent (2010), Northamptonshire (2011), and St Helens (2012). Six Yorkshire authorities have applied to operate a permit scheme, and these come into effect in June 2012.

The study takes a case study approach to examine the way in which two highway authorities in England apply the same national legislation, with research also being carried out in two additional highway authorities in order to triangulate the findings. Research was carried out between February 2010 and December 2011 using in-depth, semi-structured interviews including a councillor, local authority officers and representatives of utility companies operating in the local authority areas. The interview findings were also triangulated by an examination of relevant documents, including policies, procedures and plans. A review of the literature on public policy and policy implementation and inter-organisational collaborations was carried out, together with a review of local government in England, and the legislation relating to the management of ‗highway works‘.

The research identified similarities in how local authorities approach their role in managing ‗highway works‘ by having a ―street works team‖ with responsibilities for the co-ordination of works. However, differences were identified with regard to the emphasis and focus that authorities placed upon different aspects of the national legislation. The research identified factors that influence utility companies in complying with the legislation, and that affect their relationships with individual authorities. The findings add reputational considerations to factors that are present in inter-organisational collaborations.

The research draws three main conclusions: (1) that the complex, and at times ambiguous, nature of the legal framework surrounding the management of ‗highway works‘ means that utility companies need to work with authorities; (2) authorities need to work with utility companies in order to discharge their legal network management duty; and (3) utility companies and authorities need to work jointly in order to avoid the need for further legislation in an industry sector, already regarded as being heavily regulated, to address Government concerns about the disruptive effects of all ‗highway works‘.

Sean_Fisher_Final_Thesis.pdf - Accepted Version
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