Traffic Management

Appendix Two: the law governing road closures

There are two pieces of legislation that can be used to authorise a road closure: The Town Police Clauses Act 1847 and the Road Traffic Regulations Act 1984. Once the need for a closure is confirmed, the nature of the event will determine the type of legislation that can be used. The relevant legislation is not always obvious but, broadly, the legislation used will be as follows:

  • sporting and leisure events on the highway will require the use the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. (for example cycle races, triathlons, running races). Only the Traffic Authority, or an agent of the Traffic Authority, can use this legislation.

  • events involving processions, rejoicing, illuminations or ‘thronging’ will generally use the Town Police Clauses Act 1847. (such as carnivals, Remembrance Day events). Only the District Council can use this legislation.

The legislation used will have little effect on the event organiser. However, owing to a restriction in law, roads closed using the Road Traffic Regulations Act 1984 can only be closed once per year using this legislation. The Traffic Authority will need to obtain approval from the Secretary of State for further road closures using the same legislation on the same road. Accordingly further time may be needed to process closure requests from organisers if the road has been closed for another event earlier in the year.

Public Liability insurance is required for all road closure orders made using the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 by the Traffic Authority, which will almost always require £10 million in cover. Public liability requirements for closures made using the Town Police Clauses Act 1847 generally range between £5 million and £10 million depending on the District Council processing the order. In exceptional circumstances, the amount of liability insurance may be reduced. Any reductions will be based on a risk assessment of the event and the measures undertaken by the event organiser to minimise risk.

Following the correct legal procedure for processing road closures takes time, so there is usually a minimum notice period required for any road closure request. This will depend on the road being closed, the legislation being used, the type of event and the organisation processing it. Notice periods range from six weeks to six months. Event organisers should contact the relevant organisation, either the District Council or the Traffic Authority, to find out what precise notice period is required as soon as the need for a closure is decided. Without the correct advance notice period it may not be possible to process a closure application.

The vast majority of road closures will require a diversion route. Diversion routes are usually decided by the local District Council or the Traffic Authority. The Traffic Authority will also make every effort to keep the diversion route clear of other incidents, works or events. However, it is possible that an unplanned incident or emergency works has to be carried out on the diversion route. Accordingly, a backup diversion route may need to be considered. This is usually only necessary for large or events lasting more than one day.