Skip to content

Make a request

Apparatus and excavating the highway

If you are planning work which involves excavating the public highway, you must apply for a licence. The public highway includes the carriageway, footway, verges, bridleways and footpaths.

If you are not sure who maintains the land contact the Land Charges team on 01392 382295 or email

There are two types of private excavations on a public highway.

1. Apparatus work

This covers:

  • installing any new private apparatus
  • work to any existing private apparatus
  • excavating a trench for a utility company to place an apparatus

Apparatus is:

  • a piece of equipment used for a particular purpose, for example, water pipes, cables and sewer pipes
  • any piece of equipment used to lodge another piece of apparatus, such as a duct laid for a cable
  • a piece of equipment placed to gain access to another piece of apparatus, for example, a manhole or inspection chamber

Under Section 50 of The New Roads and Street Works Act 1991 a licence is needed for any apparatus:

  • placed under the highway surface – excavation works, boring and tunnelling
  • on the highway surface – such as an inspection box
  • over the highway – such as telephone wires

A licence is also needed for works to apparatus that require no excavation – such as a manhole inspection or placing an ATC for a traffic survey.

Find out more about applying for section 50 works.

2. Non-apparatus excavations

If you need to excavate the public highway for works which don’t involve apparatus and are not covered under a Section 38 or Section 278 Agreement you will need a licence under Section 171 of the Highway Act 1980.

This could be for:

  • excavating a trial hole
  • excavation to repair a wall

Vehicle crossing (dropped kerb)

To create a vehicle crossing (dropped kerb), you will need a licence under Section 184 of the Highways Act 1980.

Find out more about applying for a vehicle crossing.

Storage of material or obstruction of the highway

If you need to store or place materials on the public highway you will need a licence under Section 171 of the Highway Act 1980.

For more information and to apply for a licence please see store materials on the road.