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Builders skips

Builders skips can pose a road safety hazard. New legislation has created a civil enforcement process for builders' skips. 

Overloaded skip

The London Local Authorities Act 2013 created new provisions for London's highways authorities (that is the 32 boroughs, the City of London and TfL) to introduce a new method of civil enforcement for builders skips. London Councils has set the penalty levels which can now be adopted by highways authorities. 

What does the law require?

Across all of the UK, to place a skip on the public highway (that is, the road), first you must get a permit to do so. In London, permits must be applied for from the 32 London borough councils and Transport for London as highways authorities. The City of London is also a highways authority but does not allow skips to be placed on the highway, unless within hoardings, and so a skip permit does not have to be applied for but a hoardings permit does. 

Individual highways authorities have their own requirements regarding how to apply for a skip permit, and the cost and length of permit varies to suit local circumstances. In addition to having a permit to place a skip on the highway, the law also adds conditions to that skip being on the highway, for example that it must be lit at night, must be marked with the owner's name and contact details, and must be removed as is practicable after it is filled. 

It is important to be able to control the placement of skips on the highway as skips usually reduce available on-street parking, and where they are not lit, poorly maintained, or not covered, they can present a road safety hazard or a detriment to the local amenity. 

Enforcement powers

The Highways Act 1980 gives highways authorities across England powers to tackle builders skips, by prosecuting individuals and then fining them. This is an expensive and lengthy process. 

The London Local Authorities and Transport for London Act 2003 allows London's highways authorities to issue Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN) when offences are committed. These cannot be contested, except in court. 

Alternatively, the London Local Authorities Act 2013 allows highways authorities to issue Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs). There is an appeals route instead for people who wish to challenge receiving a PCN. The PCN route is less complex and less expensive than the FPN route and the Highways Act route, as neither the individual who received the penalty nor the authority have to prepare a legal case. Both parties are still required to provide sufficient evidence to justify their case if it goes to appeal. This type of enforcement route currently exists for parking. 

London Councils' Transport and Environment Committee had a statutory responsibility to set the penalty levels that can then be used by all and any highways authorities in London, if they choose.

What will the impact be?

It is hoped that the 2013 Act will give highways authorities more effective powers to tackle builders skips. Before any London borough starts to use the powers, a decision to do so has to be taken at Full Council, and notice of this decision together with the start date for enforcement has to be advertised locally. This is to ensure that skip companies are able to make sure they are complying before enforcement starts. 

These penalties and charges can only be issued by law to the skip company. Skip hirers are not appropriate recipients. A skip company that receives a Penalty Charge Notice and does not believe a contravention has taken place can make representations to the authority that issued it, and if these are not accepted but it still wishes to contest the penalty, the company can appeal to the independent adjudicator. All this information is provided in a Penalty Charge Notice.