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Traffic Management

Public events: traffic management guidance for event organisers

Hampshire County Council recognises that well managed and safe events can bring significant benefit to local communities. The County Council, as the Traffic Authority for Hampshire has produced these guidance notes in consultation with Hampshire’s district councils and Hampshire Constabulary organisers to help organisers plan the traffic aspects of their event.

Our aim is to help event organisers plan their events to minimise disruption to traffic and residents and maximise traffic safety. It also gives guidance on how to get road closures, road signing for events and preparing effective traffic management plans.

The information in this document complements the advice in the document "Good Practice Safety Guide: for small and sporting events taking place on the highway, roads and public places" published by the Home Office. Event organisers are encouraged to look at this document (see Appendix Four for web link).

Note that Hampshire County Council is the Traffic Authority for most roads in Hampshire. The only exceptions are; Motorways and trunk roads, which are managed by the Highways Agency. Roads in Southampton, which are managed by Southampton City Council, and roads in Portsmouth, which are managed by Portsmouth City Council.

Alerting the authorities

It is important that event organisers alert a number of authorities and organisations of their plans. Events have different aspects (entertainment, environmental health, safety, and traffic to name a few). Some elements of an event may need licenses or special permissions from various different organisations. Similarly these organisations will be able to provide advice to event organisers to help make their event more effective and safer.

Rather than the event organiser speaking to many different organisations local District Councils will usually act as a single point of contact and will distribute event details to most of the various interested organisations on behalf of the organiser. Accordingly event organisers should always speak to the various District Councils that would be directly affected by their event. The District Council may then convene a ‘Safety Advisory Group’ (SAG) meeting for all interested organisations to discuss the event. Or it may direct the event organiser to discuss the various aspects of the plan with the different organisations independently.

Many District Councils provide websites with online forms to make it easy for event organisers to provide them with details of their proposed event.

In addition to alerting the District Council, organisers of cycle races and time trials are also legally required to alert the police. In the case of cycle races police permission is required. See below for further details of these requirements.

Basic principles of managing traffic at events

Events, both on and off the highway are an important part of the community. However, they can also cause significant traffic disruption on both the local and wider road networks. It is therefore important that they are carefully planned to minimise traffic congestion and risks to safety on the highway. This guidance will assist in helping an event organiser to identify potential traffic problems and provides advice on how to avoid them.

Impact on residents, local businesses and the road network

Events should always be timed to avoid clashing with peak traffic times. Wherever possible, on-highway events, such as triathlons should be arranged to be undertaken on private land (with the permission of the landowner), or away from busy roads and with as few right turns as possible. Running races should also be planned to make use of footways wherever possible.

Events should be planned to ensure that access to local residents, businesses and buildings is not compromised. The event organiser should advise and discuss with local representatives to ensure that the local community is aware of the event and that their concerns are addressed.

The event organiser should consult with the Highways Agency where their event is near a motorway or trunk road or their junctions. The Highways Agency should also be consulted if traffic on motorways or trunk roads, or their junctions, is likely to be affected by an event, for example, traffic might queue onto a motorway or trunk road as a result of trying to access an event car park or as a result of being temporarily held up for a procession or carnival.

Event organisers are strongly recommended to plan their events to avoid attendees arriving or leaving at peak traffic times or at times that might inconvenience local residents or businesses. For well attended events it is recommended that event organisers encourage attendees to arrive / leave over a long period to avoid swamping the area with a lot of traffic at the same time.

Traffic control and signing at events

Except for a few specific situations (described below) the public have no lawful powers to direct or stop traffic on the public highway. The police only have powers to direct or stop traffic in the course of their duties (detecting / preventing crime or in the case of an emergency situation). Accordingly managing traffic at events must be undertaken using signs, such as road closed signs, diversion route signing, cones, barriers and general direction signs.

The specific situations where the public do have legal powers to direct traffic on the public highway include;

Signs used as part of a closure and the diversion route, will be authorised by the Council approving the closure (either the district council or the County Council). Details of signs used where no closure is needed (such as signs on the highway advising traffic of unexpected hazards or which lane to be in for people attending the event) should be sent to the Traffic Authority for advice and approval.

Advance signage should also be considered to advise motorists of upcoming events so that they can plan alternate routes. Such signs should only include the key information and be set up no more than one week before the event.

Once the use of signs has been decided the event organiser should create a sign schedule clearly listing the following;

The sign schedule should be sent to the Traffic Authority (and SSE if signs are to be attached to lamp columns - for approval.

The event organiser is responsible for procuring the appropriate signs and employing appropriately trained staff in order to set out, maintain and remove them at the end of the event.

Signs attached to lamp or illuminated sign columns can damage the protective paintwork which could then lead to more serious damage to the column itself. The liability for maintaining lamp and illuminated columns is held by Scottish & Southern Energy. Therefore once approval of the signs has been obtained from the Traffic Authority, S&SE need to be consulted if the sign is to be attached to a lamp or illuminated sign column. S&SE can be contacted via e-mail:

Assuming approval has been obtained for the signs from the Traffic Authority then S&SE are unlikely to withhold permission to attach such signs to lamp or illuminated sign columns. However, SSE may request that specific methods of affixing the signs are used, in order to protect the column from damage.   

For larger events the event organiser may wish to consider the use of portable ‘variable message signs’ which can be hired from traffic management companies. Such equipment can provide up to date information for traffic and is especially useful where unplanned incidents adversely affect traffic in the vicinity of an event. In addition the use of the Traffic Authority’s own permanent matrix signs may be appropriate.

Hampshire County Council, as the Traffic Authority, also operates a traffic control centre and specialist traffic light teams to manually manage permanent traffic light sites and monitor strategic routes. The services of this centre and or traffic light teams may also be needed in exceptional circumstances.  

Under no circumstances should telephone numbers, internet addresses or other contact details be displayed on temporary event signs. The names of event sponsors should not be included unless similar events in the same area at the same time make such identification necessary for traffic management purposes. Dates and times of events are not normally included since the signs are only intended for people attending the event and need guidance on getting there. Signs of an advertising nature are not permitted.

The Traffic Authority is the final arbiter of the signing for an event and may remove any signs that have not been approved and / or are causing a highway danger. Expenses incurred in removing such sings may be charged to the event organiser.

See Appendix One at the end of this note for further important information regarding the placement of signs on the road.

Road closures, diversion routes and other temporary traffic orders

As road closures cause disruption to drivers, pedestrians, residents and businesses, they should only be considered if absolutely necessary. Road closures are usually necessary for the purposes of safety during race or time trial type events where participants need to, or are likely to ignore give way sings at junctions.

Closing a public road, footway, footpath or verge without a lawful closure order is illegal.

If an event cannot be run without a road closure, then event organisers are advised to consider the following factors in the earliest planning stages:

  1. Do you have enough resources to procure and maintain the signs needed?
  2. Are your staff competent/trained to place, maintain and remove signs?
  3. Have you applied for and received permission for the closure from the District Council or traffic authority?
  4. Have you consulted with local residents/businesses/organisations or local disability groups about the closure?
  5. Have you consulted with local passenger transport operators as their services may be affected by the closure?
  6. Have you consulted with any local religious organisations as they may require access to buildings during the closure?
  7. What are the options for diversion routes? The Traffic Authority or the District Council will ultimately decide what the diversion route is, but it helps to consider it at an early stage.
  8. Are there any motorways or major roads that might be affected? If so, a closure may well be refused or direction signing could be prohibitively expensive.
  9. Have you consulted with local bus companies and / or emergency services regarding the closure?
  10. Have you made any contingency plans for emergency access to your closure, for example to attend an accident?
  11. What plans are there to remove broken down vehicles from within the closure or the diversion routes?
  12. What plans have been made to avoid/remove vehicles already in place or prevent parking before the closure starts?
  13. What plans are there to enable businesses or residents to access their property within the closure?
  14. What training / briefings will be provided to event staff managing the closure?

There is usually a charge made for processing a legal order to close a road. This charge covers the legally required advertising of the intent to close a road, and the administrative costs incurred by the Traffic Authority or the District Council preparing the order.

Some events may benefit from the implementation of temporary traffic regulation orders such as temporary speed limits to slow traffic down, or restrictions on parking in order to keep routes clear and free of ‘pinch points’. The Traffic Authority or the District Council will be able to advise on such matters and will process the necessary application forms.

The police can authorise the use of ‘Police no waiting’ cones as an alternative to a temporary parking restriction order. The police may be able to supply the correct cones for this task but this should not be relied on.

For all closures, diversion routes and other temporary traffic regulation orders the event organiser will have to supply their own cones, signs and barriers and the appropriate staff to set them up.

See Appendices One &Two at the end of this note for information about the rules on placing signs and the law governing road closures.

Pedestrians and public transport

The event organiser should always consider alternative transport arrangements for people attending the event. Facilities should be considered to prevent pedestrians being dropped off on unsuitable verges, and safe pedestrian access via footpaths must also be considered.

For large events organisers should plan for drop off points and access / arrangements for people arriving by public transport. It is strongly recommended that the event organiser encourages the use of public transport wherever possible in order to reduce the traffic impact on the local network. Shuttle buses and special arrangements with local public transport operators must be considered for events with large numbers of attendees.

Traffic and travel information for event attendees

The arrival times and modes of event attendees will be directly influenced by their knowledge of the local area and the information provided by the event organiser. Event organisers are encouraged to provide event attendees with as much information as possible in order for them to be able to plan their journeys. Details of public transport facilities should be provided, including any special arrangements made for the event.

The use of local media and social media can be particularly effective in advising event attendees of the latest information regarding travel to and from an event. This is particularly important if changes to the event are to be made at the last minute.

Cycle events: additional information

Hampshire County Council recognises that organised cycle rides bring significant social, health, community, financial and other benefits to local areas.  The County Council welcomes such rides in Hampshire but seeks to ensure that they are organised in a way that prioritises safety and minimises the impact on the local environment, residents and traffic.

Specific legal requirements are in place nationally to minimise risks to safety and congestion as follows.

Cycle races and time trials have specific regulations: the Cycle Racing on Highways Regulations 1960.

The regulations require the organiser to notify the police at least 28 days before the start of the event. For time trials if notice is given in accordance with these regulations the event is considered to be authorised. Less notice may be given, but this would be subject to police approval. For races no automatic authorisation exists. Permission from the police must be obtained before the event can go ahead.

Cycle races and time trials in Hampshire should be notified to Hampshire Constabulary

The organiser is reminded that police authorisation of the event does not remove the liability for safety or disruption, or the obtaining of any other authorisations, permits / closures etc.

No special requirements exist for organisers of ‘cycle sportives’ and similar leisure cycling events to alert the police. However, it is considered best practice to follow the same principles as a cycle race or time trial and alert the police. It is also helpful for the organisers of cycle races, time trials and leisure event involving more than 50 cyclists to alert  the local District Council.

Where a cycle event requires a road closure then the relevant legislation used to close the road will normally be Section 16A of the Road Traffic Regulations Act 1984. See the section above, and Appendix two for further information on road closures.

New “STOP” ‘lollipop’ style signs have been developed to facilitate traffic control at cycle races and minimise the need for road closures. These signs have been approved by Government for use in Hampshire. Organisers of cycle races who wish make use of this sign need to provide details of qualifications of their marshals and details of how the signs will be used when they send their race details to the police and District Councils. Police approval is also required for the sign, in addition to the approval for the race itself.

Cycle event organisers and participants are reminded that they must abide by all standard highway legislation and must respect give way markings, and other regulatory signs. Participants should respect other road and users and pedestrians and under no circumstances should they race without the specific permission of the police and without appropriate traffic management being in place.

The New Forest National Park Authority has developed a specific cycle event charter to assist event planners in running well managed cycle events in this unique park area. One of the key elements of the charter is a recommended limit of 1,000cyclists. This limit is intended to reduce minimise the wider amenity impact of such events on the National Park. A link to this charter can be found in Appendix 4.

Weather and event cancellation / amendment considerations

Event organisers should prepare written plans for adverse weather, because it can significantly worsen the event’s impact on local traffic.

Organisers should have a plan for cancelling / amending the event at short notice, with arrangements for contacting all organisations involved. Organisers also need to consider how they will distribute event cancellation / changes information to those attending the event, particularly if the cancellation / change has to be made at the last minute.

If wet weather is likely, organisers should also arrange to have equipment on site for clearing stranded vehicles from entries and exits and cleaning the public highway of mud. Equipment could include: tractors with towing hooks, road sweepers and tyre washes.

Wet weather is also likely to severely reduce ingress and egress rates to ‘off highway’ events and car parks. The event organiser should make alternative arrangements for maintaining optimum ingress and egress rates. For example; providing matting or hard-standing on fields for car parks or having additional access and egress points.

Traffic Management Meeting

Before the event, we strongly recommend that event organisers arrange a traffic management meeting. The meeting could be held as part of the Safety Advisory Group meetings that most District Councils hold on a regular basis, or as a separate meeting. Those attending to review the traffic issues usually include:

Alternatively, after reviewing draft event plans, the District Council, Traffic Authority or police may call a traffic management meeting.

At the meeting the event organiser will:

The organisations will:

Depending on the size and nature of the event, other organisations may need to attend the meeting, such as:

A meeting after the event can sometimes help event organisers highlight measures that worked well, and improve planning at future events.

Traffic Management Plan

We recommend that all events have a written Traffic Management (TM) plan as part of the overall event management plan.

The TM plan:

In some cases, approvals for event licensing, road closures, or use of traffic signs may be conditional on the event organiser having a TM plan.

The size of a TM plan document will largely depend on the impact an event will have on the highway. Impact is not necessarily only determined by the size of the event. Other factors, such as the nature of the roads to be closed / affected will also have a significant effect. As a general rule, any event planned to take place on, or affect any road with a speed limit of 50mph or higher, or that is classified as an A or B road is likely to have a higher impact on traffic and will therefore require more detailed planning.

TM plans for a local fete or carnival may only run to a single page. TM plans for major events such as the Farnborough Air Show will consist of several volumes. However, in all cases, the same main issues must be covered although the detail and extent of coverage will be different.

As a minimum it is recommended that the TM plan should include information on all or most of the following:

Contact details

Sign schedule, road closures, traffic lights, plans

Estimated size of event

Emergency procedures and bad weather contingency

Parking and public transport

Impact on the local traffic network

Summary of consultation and planning

Details and outcomes of consultations with all appropriate organisations and local groups for example;

Bunting, banners and decorative flags

Bunting, banners and flags are a traditional feature of sporting and other large events. Licensing of such decoration on or over the highway is managed by the Traffic Authority and a license has been developed to permit the hanging of bunting and flags on or over the highway:

When erecting bunting banners or flags please be aware of yours and others safety. Do not erect them where they will block access or sight lines. Also ensure that what you will be attaching them to is solid and secure. Never attach them to power or telephone cables. If you are attaching them to private property always ensure that you have the property owners permission. Care should also be taken when attaching them to lamp columns and signs to avoid obscuring the sign or damaging the protective paintwork.

An administrative charge is made by the Traffic Authority for processing an application for bunting, banners or decorative flags.


Smoke from large bonfires may drift over roads and obscure drivers' and pedestrians' vision and potentially lead to accidents. It is essential that organisers of bonfire events take this risk into account in their risk assessment.

Costs of traffic related matters at events

Their may be costs associated with the traffic / road element of an event. Event organisers should plan to cover costs for items such as:

In addition, for larger events further costs may need to be budgeted for by the organiser, for example:

Charges made by Hampshire County Council as the Traffic Authority, or District Councils (eg for processing road closure orders, temporary traffic regulation orders, bunting / banner licenses or the provision of matrix signs or the traffic control centre) may be waived or reduced for charitable events.

If action is required as a result of a failure by the event organiser to appropriately manage traffic, all reasonable costs incurred may be recharged to the event organiser.

Other issues

The event organiser should also take into account any further requirements, licenses or permits that may be required, for example:

These licenses and permits are usually managed by the local council (district,city, or borough council).

Additional more detailed and technical information


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