Clause 81 of the New Roads and Street Act 1991 is your friend

You may have been following some of my travails trying to get repairs made to some of those telephone, broadband, traffic light etc boxes which appear on many pavements.

Although  my own local council (Islington) is very good at dealing with them either directly themselves or passing on to the relevant company and ensuring the work is done, other councils, including Haringey and Westminster, are far less good at sorting issues with their streets.

Haringey in theory also gets the job done if a member of the public reports a problem to them, but in practice I’ve often found problems of things going wrong or being forgotten.

Worst of the lot has been Westminster Council, who not only sent me off on wild goose chases claiming that a box is TfL’s responsibility (when it isn’t) and then that it’s BT’s (when it isn’t) but also in both cases left it to me to contact BT and TfL. All round Westminster so far don’t seem too bothered that staff give out wrong, and at times flatly contradictory, information and nor does Westminster Council seem to feel it has any responsibility for ensuring such utility boxes are kept in good repair. Instead they view it as a matter for the utility company and me.

Which is where Clause 81 of the New Roads and Streets Act 1991 comes in useful. In short, the law says that firms who plonk boxes on our pavements have to look after them, and if they don’t the local authority responsible for the pavements can take legal action. The local authority also has the power to carry out work itself if the company doesn’t.

Westminster so far seem curiously unaware of this legal power, so in case anyone else has run into trouble with other councils unwilling to make use of the power the law gives them – or is unaware of it – you can find the relevant clause to quote at them here.

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