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Installation of private apparatus (Section 50 licence)

To apply for a Section 50 licence, please read the information below:



What is a Section 50 licence?   Back to top

A Section 50 licence allows a private individual to place or maintain apparatus in the highway. It may be needed for works to private drains and sewers as well as private gas, electricity and water services.

A licence can run for a limited period time, or for an undetermined period. If the duration is undetermined, the landowner is responsible for ensuring that the licence is amended if their land is sold to another party.



Types of private apparatus   Back to top

There are many types of apparatus and structures that may be required within the highway. Any reasonable request will be considered provided sufficient detail about the apparatus or structure is provided on application.

Examples of apparatus that may be licensed:


Drains and sewers are presently the responsibility of the landowner from the property up to and including the connection onto the adopted sewer which at this point becomes the responsibility of the sewerage authority. Many landowners are unaware of their responsibilities and legislation is presently being reviewed by central government. This is because the drain or sewer may cross a substantial part of the highway before connecting onto the adopted infrastructure and maintenance/repairs can be significantly costly especially where the highway is subject to substantial traffic or engineering difficulties. The connection is also private which adds to potential problems given that connection points are often where problems arise.

Until the outcome of the national review is published, placing of a private drain or sewer requires a Section 50 licence. On application, the applicant must provide evidence that the connection to the adopted infrastructure has been approved by the sewerage authority. Such licences run for an undetermined period and therefore should be updated during land transfers to ensure that new landowners take responsibility for the apparatus and are aware of their obligations.

The granting of a licence for drains and sewers can be refused but is not common.


Recent deregulation now allows for certain registered organisations to place services into the highway which are later adopted by a statutory undertaker. The placing of this apparatus requires a Section 50 licence which would be granted for a limited time and would cease at the point of adoption. The applicant should be the landowner requiring the service and not the contractor carrying out the works. In some cases, a licence may be granted to the contractor but only where an adoption agreement can be proven and the licence would then be conditioned that should the infrastructure not be adopted, it must be removed and the highway made good. In all cases, the contractor will be required to apply for a Section 171 permit to dig and at this point, a check will be made to ensure that the contractor is registered on the Lloyds Register. The licence holder will be required to confirm with evidence that the apparatus has been adopted and at that point, the licence will be revoked.

The granting of a licence for utility services is normally only granted where the infrastructure will be adopted by a statutory undertaker. This is due to the risks associated with the various services (such as gas mains/services) and the potential hazard to highway users and other organisations involved in working in the highway.

Please note: where a licence has been granted, the works would be approved under a temporary excavations (permit to dig) approval which places the responsibility for reinstatements on the Section 171 permit holder (contractor). Where a Section 50 licence has been granted for a limited time, the licence may cease before the guarantee period has expired and in such cases, the Section 171 permit holder remains responsible for the reinstatements until the end of the guarantee period.


In some cases it may be necessary for private individuals to place a permanent structure in the highway such as a ramp (where provision for accessing premises is required), guardrail (often associated to ramps) and bollards. All permanent structures require a Section 50 licence and each ‘structure’ or item must carry its own licence. Such licences run for an undetermined period and therefore should be updated during land transfers to ensure that new landowners take responsibility for the apparatus and are aware of their obligations.

The granting of a licence for permanent structures are assessed on an individual basis and may be refused if the structure is likely to cause an obstruction to highway users or other organisations requiring access to the highway.

It is worth noting that the highway authority in all cases has the right to refuse the granting of a licence where it is perceived that highway users may be unnecessarily disrupted, obstructed or safety compromised. We also have a duty to ensure that the highway infrastructure is not compromised by the placing of apparatus within it. This is our statutory duty and as a result we may:

  • Request an alternative construction method
  • Request an alternative location or design
  • Restrict the timing of works
  • Refuse the application even after alternative options are submitted

The applicant will bear the cost of any requests and/or restrictions placed by the highway authority. Examples of additional costs incurred may be where a proposal requires a new design, where a different method may involve specialist equipment or where timings are restricted such as permitted working hours or a delay in commencement (such as a restriction that the works can only take place during school holidays). The applicant is required to inform the chosen contractor of all conditions applied to the licence as these must be included by the contractor when applying for a Section 171 permit to dig.

It is also a requirement of the applicant to notify all organisations with an interest in the highway including statutory undertakers, the police and emergency services of the proposal to ascertain objections, special requirements and the location of existing apparatus. The applicant must comply with any requests made by the consulted organisations and bear any additional costs incurred in doing so. In particular, connections to sewers require the written consent of the sewerage authority, Severn Trent Water, and therefore you will require a connection approval notice prior to application. This can be obtained from Severn Trent Water via their developer services department who can be contacted on 0845 601 6616.

A licence does not constitute approval for any works to take place in the highway. The actual works associated to the licence must be applied for under Section 171 of the Highways Act 1980 (temporary excavations) and a permit to dig must be granted before any works commence. Any work done prior to this will constitute an illegal opening of the highway for which there is a fine of up to £1,000.



How much does it cost?   Back to top

A private licence for apparatus in the highway costs £367.

A permit to dig is also required for any works. Additional costs apply, please see the permit to dig page for details.

Fast track application

We will aim to get your permit to you within 20 working days. However we can process an application with a minimum of 5 days notice, there is an additional charge of £55 for this service.



How can I apply?   Back to top

Please complete the application form (349 KB).

Information required on application:

  • Completed application form
  • Detailed plan of proposal clearly showing the proposed location of the apparatus or structure
  • Specific detail including dimensions of proposed structures
  • Signed blank licence

Payment of the fee will be sought once your application has been received by the team. Please do not provide card details on your form, we will contact you for them once your application is registered.

Please email completed forms to nmu@staffordshire.gov.uk, or post it to:

Network Control Hub, 
2 Staffordshire Place, 
Tipping Street, 
ST16 2DH

An initial receipt of application will be made within 5 working days. We aim to complete a licence within 15 working days (for licence only, this does not include the permit to dig process time).



What happens next?   Back to top

  • We receive and register your application. We check all of the details supplied to make sure everything needed to process the application is included. We will then contact you for card payment details and process the fee.

  • If there is any information missing we will not be able to start to process your application. At the time of taking the payment, we will notify you of what must be provided in order that your application can proceed.

  • Your application will be passed to our assessment team. An inspection may be required to check the details provided, assess safety implications and determine whether special conditions will be required.

  • After assessment, a response will be prepared which should be provided within 2-3 weeks of receipt of the application.

  • The response will either be a granted licence with any necessary special conditions or a refusal to grant with reasons to support the decision.

Once a licence has been granted, installation should take place within one year. Failure to do so may mean that the licence is terminated and subject to a reapplication which is at the discretion of the network manager. This period of validity is required as the highway may have changed requiring different conditions to be placed upon a licence.

No works can commence until a Section 171 permit to dig is granted to the nominated contractor. Details of how to do this will be issued with the licence.

Following completion of the works an 'as laid' drawing of the apparatus must be forwarded to the network management unit.



Responsibilities of licence holders   Back to top


Whilst the application is being processed by the highway authority, the applicant is required to contact organisations to notify them of the proposal, seek objections or concerns and obtain copies of existing apparatus in the location in question.

A connection approval notice must be sought from Severn Trent Water for connections onto public sewers.

Payment of the fee will be sought once your application has been received by the team. Please do not provide card details on your form - we will contact you for them once your application is registered.


Once a licence has been granted, installation should take place within one year. Failure to do so may mean that the licence is terminated and subject to a reapplication which is at the discretion of the network manager. This period of validity is required as the highway may have changed requiring different conditions to be placed upon a licence.

Licences are checked annually to ensure that a Section 171 permit has been cross referenced and a licensee may be contacted if no works have been carried out to ensure the licence is still required. If it is not, the licence will be terminated.


Once a licence has been granted, the licence holder is required to:

  • Ensure that the contractor is accredited and insured and applies for and receives a Section 171 permit to dig before works commence.
  • Ensure works are planned correctly and carried out expeditiously.
  • Ensure that all conditions applied to the licence are fulfilled.
  • Notify the highway authority of any issues that arise.
  • Provide an as-built drawing on completion of works.

The licence covers the life of the apparatus or structure being situated in the highway until it either ceases (on adoption) or the apparatus/structure is removed. Therefore, a licence is not required for future maintenance works but a Section 171 permit to dig must be obtained where maintenance requires excavation in the highway.

If future maintenance requires new apparatus to be installed in a different location to that notified on the as-built drawings, an additional licence will be required. An example of this may be where a drain has collapsed and a replacement drain needs to be installed in a new line across the highway. This new drain would require a licence and the existing licence would be terminated. It is envisaged that such instances would be rare as existing drains would be replaced on line due to the requirement to remove apparatus on termination of a licence.

Please note: where a new excavation is made in an existing reinstatement that is still under guarantee, the ‘latter’ Section 171 permit holder takes over responsibility for the reinstatement and the guarantee period starts afresh. It is the licence holder’s responsibility to ensure that this liability is understood by the ‘latter’ contractor.


The licence holder is obliged to disclose a Section 50 licence when transferring ownership of land so that the new landowner is aware of their legal obligations. In such cases, the licence holder must provide the highway authority a minimum of six weeks notice that the licence is to be transferred and provide details of the new landowner and whether they wish to continue or terminate the licence. Should the new landowner not wish to take responsibility for the licence, it will be terminated and any costs incurred in abandoning the apparatus/structure (normally by being removed) will be borne by the existing licence holder. 

Failure to notify the highway authority of a change in land ownership is an offence and the licence holder may be prosecuted and if convicted, could be liable to a fine as imposed by the court.


If apparatus or a structure is no longer required, the licensee must notify the highway authority and request that the licence is terminated. Before a licence is terminated, the apparatus or structure must be removed and the highway reinstated which would be carried out under a Section 171 permit to dig.

On receipt of an approval to terminate the licence, the chosen contractor carrying out the works will be required to apply for the Section 171 and only after the works are complete would the licence be terminated. As in the case of all Section 171 permits, the contractor will be responsible for the reinstatement of the highway for up to 3 years.

The licence holder is required to indemnify the highway authority against all claims including injury, damage or loss arising from any aspect of the apparatus or structure licensed including installation, maintenance and removal and also as a result of the presence of the apparatus or structure. It is therefore necessary that suitable insurance is in place for the life of the licence and must cover a minimum of £5,000,000 for each claim with no limit to the number of claims.

In some cases the highway authority may use its powers to withdraw a licence, remove the apparatus or structure and recharge any costs incurred in doing so to the licensee. Examples of such instances are:

  • Failure to comply with conditions applied to the licence
  • Where it is believed that the apparatus or structure has been abandoned
  • Where land has been transferred but not notified to the highway authority
  • In extreme cases, where the apparatus or structure is in conflict with the statutory duties placed on the highway authority.

Should the highway authority wish to use its powers to withdraw, remove and recharge, a notice will be served on the licence holder a minimum of seven days before any works commence. A resolution will be sought but should the licensee fail to respond, the highway authority will instruct works to commence.

Such a notice as referred to above will be issued to the licence holder even if the land has been transferred. It is therefore vital that licensee’s transfer their obligations as all costs incurred by the highway authority will be charged to the licensee regardless of whether they still own the land stated on the licence.



Appeals   Back to top

Where a licence has been refused, the applicant may appeal against the decision but only in cases where the apparatus is proposed to cross the street and not run along it.

Where apparatus is proposed to cross the street (for e.g. kerb to kerb) and the highway authority refuses to grant a licence the applicant may appeal to the Secretary of State. More information regarding appeals can be found on the department for transport website.

Where apparatus is proposed to run along the highway and the highway authority refuses to grant a licence there is no opportunity to appeal the decision. In such cases, an applicant may wish to complain via our complaints procedure but this would not be treated as an appeal and the highway authority is not required to overturn the decision already made.



More information   Back to top

If you would like to request any further information or if you have any concerns about our service or suggestions, please email nmu@staffordshire.gov.uk.

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