In May 2020 Bath and North East Somerset went live with a single authority permit scheme. The team wanted to deliver a scheme that, from the outset, was supported by data that would ensure an objective review process – the measure of their success.
Permit Schemes – what do they achieve?
A permit scheme gives authorities a way to manage street and roadworks activities on the public highway. They were introduced to enhance local highwayauthorities (LHAs) abilities to minimise disruption because of street and roadworks.
Under current legislation, every scheme must have an annual review for three years in a row after implementation, and then once every three years after that. The purpose of these reviews is to compare the scheme against its stated objectives, and, hopefully, to show there’s been a reduction in disruption to the network. That may include:
- a reduction in the duration of works
- a reduction in the number of Permit applications (through an increase in collaborative working).
- reporting the monitored key performance indicators (KPI 1, KPI 2, KPI 3 & KPI 7) as outlined in guidance from the DfT
- reviewing the cost benefit assessment to show an economic return on the investment, and,
- reporting the annual scheme’s benefit to all road users.
There is also a specific regulatory requirement for permit schemes to be cost-neutral, so costs should match their income. All of these outcomes need to be considered and measured in advance, when the scheme is first set up.
Additionally, the review delivers an analysis of the scheme’s first 12 months, with recommendations for improvements where necessary. The operating costs and fee income are usually reviewed, too, with fees adjusted accordingly only if a significant loss or surplus is identified.
After its first full year in operation, Bath and North East Somerset commissioned GeoPlace and GK-TC to undertake the required evaluation.
What we did
Understanding and reviewing the objectives
Every permit scheme must identify key objectives. A key aspect of this review was to ensure any analysis and the final reports could provide enough detail to show whether or not those objectives were being met, a primary indicator of every scheme’s success.
Sourcing the right data
Street and road works data are crucial in these evaluations. We worked with Bath and North East Somerset to ensure the requirements for data were clear and the necessary data was available and accessible. Requirements included:
- Specific date periods to cover the first year of implementation, plus the year before for comparison
- Data sourced from the most complete and definitive location of streetworks data for the authority. In this instance, the data held locally within Bath and North East Somerset's streetworks software.
In addition, the requirements then included data relating to the Key performance indicators (KPI) outlined in Annex A of the statutory guidance for highway authority permit schemes:
- The number of permit and permit variation applications received, and whether they were granted and refused (KPI 1)
- The number of conditions applied by condition type (KPI 2)
- The number of approved permit variations (extensions) (KPI 3)
- The number of approved early start requests (KPI 4)
- The number of requests and approvals to work within Section 58 restrictions. (KPI 5)
- The number of inspections carried out to monitor conditions (KPI 7)
Alongside the data feeding into the KPIs, the team needed data that would give an overview of the works within a specific date range, with key insights such as:
- Works Promoter – which organisation undertook the works
- Works Promoter Type – what type of promoter they were
- Works Category – what type of work it was, from major to minor
- The traffic management type – what was put into place for the works
Analysing and presenting the information
Every permit scheme evaluation needs a detailed, readable report. These reports must provide all the information needed to establish whether or not the scheme’s objectives are being met, and they need to explain detailed KPIs and provide an overview of the scheme’s performance, too.
Data regarding overall totals, and individual works promoters or works promoter type proved particularly useful in identifying which organisations might be delivering best practice solutions, and the type of street works being undertaken. The analysis presented totals for the first year of implementation, but to put those in context, it also included the previous year’s outcomes (where the authority was still under a noticing scheme). Insights included:
- Number of permit applications
- Number of permit applications by traffic management type
- Number of permit applications by works category
- Number of permit applications by reinstatement type
- Average duration of works of the combined granted permit applications
Engagement with the highway authority
The staff at Bath and North East Somerset played a crucial role in successfully delivering this evaluation. In meetings that were held regularly from start to finish, their local knowledge and first-hand experience of running the scheme ensured that context was known and applied throughout the process.
The final report includes recommendations that will help in the successful running of the permit scheme, which may be useful to other permit scheme operators.
The specificity of those data requirements has enabled Bath and North East Somerset to keep its internal teams up to date on the success of the scheme, and present key insights to relevant stakeholders, including aspects on parity.
"We’ve been impressed with the way GeoPlace and GK-TC have approached our annual review, from the way they set out a programme of the work involved to the thorough analysis of our permit scheme’s performance and the clear report they’ve produced. We wanted this to be more than a tick box exercise of satisfying the regulatory requirements and instead to produce meaningful information we can use to improve the way we operate. That’s what’s been delivered and we’re very happy with the result." - Bath & North East Somerset Council.
These reviews are an annual requirement for the first three years of a permit scheme’s implementation. GeoPlace and GK-TC will be working with Bath and North East Somerset for the creation of both the Year 2 & Year 3 reports.