Excavate the highway

Apply for a section 171 licence to dig up the road, create a vehicle access or highway alteration

Who needs a licence

A Section 171 road opening licence is required for small excavations in the highway, such as trial holes or domestic vehicular accesses less than 10 metres in width under Section 171 of the Highways Act.

For further guidance on vehicular access larger than 10 metres in width, see Information for developers.

Who can apply

A company or contractor will apply for permission to excavate the highway, often on behalf of a land or property owner. This is because it is the applicant who will be required to comply with and accept the licence conditions.

Before you apply

When applying for a section 171 licence it is a requirement that:

  • the contractor shall hold £10 million public liability insurance
  • the contractor shall comply with the accreditation requirements under the NRSWA 1991 Codes of Practice

Where work relates to the construction of a vehicle crossing, the resident must first have applied for permission to have a vehicle crossing installed or widened and received their approval letter before the section 171 application is made. Work undertaken by the contractor must then meet the County Council construction standards.

To enable us to process your application please upload the following documentation:

  • a 1:500 plan showing location and extent of excavation
  • signing and guarding proposals
  • traffic management plan (if required by the County Council or its agent)

Failure to provide appropriate supporting documentation will delay the processing of your application.

Conditions of licence

Made under ss2 and 5 of S171 of the Highways Act 1980.

Conditions of licence

  1. The applicant shall not carry out any excavation or other works in the highway, except in accordance with a plan, to be submitted with this application, and approved by the Highway Authority. The applicant shall ensure that persons carrying out the work are qualified and competent. For the purposes of carrying out the works, the contractor shall comply with the Codes of Practice for Training issued under the New Roads & Street Works Act 1991. Specifically, the contractors’ supervisor will be trained and accredited to the requirements of the Codes of Practice
  2. The applicant shall indemnify the Highway Authority against all liability, loss, claim, or proceeding whatsoever arising under the statute or common law in respect of any deposit of building materials, rubbish, or other thing in the street or the creation, existence, or reinstatement of any temporary excavation made under s171 Highways Act 1980. The applicant shall effect insurance indemnifying the applicant and the Highway Authority in respect of the works and their duration and until the Highway Authority resumes responsibility in accordance with Condition 20. Such insurance shall afford indemnity of not less than £10 million in respect of each and every occurrence or series of occurrences caused by or attributable to any event giving rise to a claim
  3. The applicant shall regulate the works so as to minimise obstruction to vehicular and pedestrian traffic and shall guard the works in accordance with Chapter 8 of the Traffic Signs Manual published by the relevant government agency. The works area shall be maintained clean and tidy throughout the duration of the works
  4. The applicant shall not interfere with any drain, culvert, gully, bridge, wall or other structure without the express and specific consent of the Highway Authority
  5. No part of the highway may be closed, at any time, without the express and specific consent of the Highway Authority
  6. The issue of a licence to make a temporary excavation in the highway does not authorise the Licensee to interfere with apparatus already existing in the street. At all times access must be maintained to any apparatus within the highway
  7. The issue of a licence does not dispense the licensee from obtaining any other consent, licence or permission which may be required for their works. The Licensee is responsible for identifying and obtaining any necessary consents, licences or permissions from any third parties or other authorities having an interest in the works or apparatus prior to commencing their works
  8. The Highway Authority shall serve notices to the Statutory Undertakers in accordance with the requirements of the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991 on behalf of the applicant. Except in the case of an emergency, such notices must be made at least twenty-five working days prior to the start of the works, or, in the case of major works, at least three months prior to the start of the works
  9. The Licensee is not permitted to commence works in advance of the notice period, unless the express and specific permission of the Highway Authority has been sought and obtained. In the event that such permission is granted, the Licensee shall be solely responsible for giving notice to Statutory Undertakers and obtaining details of their plant
  10. The Licensee shall be responsible for carrying out any works required by a Statutory Undertaker in their response to a notice, or subsequently, to protect apparatus. Prior to the commencement of any works, the Licensee shall determine the precise location of any Statutory Undertaker’s plant. The Licensee shall allow for the notification process when programming their work
  11. The applicant shall notify the Highway Authority of any variation to the expected start date and end date of the Works. Any start or end date not agreed with the Highway Authority shall be a breach of the terms and conditions of the licence
  12. If the Highway Authority and relevant Statutory Undertakers consent to the proposed works, a licence will be issued by the Highway Authority. Works shall not commence until this licence is approved and issued
  13. An applicant who contravenes any condition or fails to perform the statutory duties imposed by sections 171(4) or 171(5) Highways Act 1980 is guilty of an offence and will be prosecuted by the Highway Authority. In addition, and pursuant to section 171(7) Highways Act 1980, where an offence has been committed the Highway Authority may remove the obstruction or fill in the excavation and recover the expenses reasonably incurred in doing so from the person convicted
  14. The applicant shall meet the costs incurred by the Highway Authority in carrying out any inspections deemed necessary by the Highway Authority under s72(2) New Roads and Street Works Act 1991
  15. In the event of the works being cancelled by the applicant after the application form has been submitted, the administration fee will be charged to the applicant to cover administrative costs
  16. Reinstatement of the works shall be in accordance with the specification provided by the Highway Authority. Any excavation shall be at least temporarily reinstated with a bitumen macadam before removing any signing and barriers. Limestone is not permitted in the wearing course. Any temporary reinstatement shall be agreed with the Highway Authority
  17. During the course of the works, and following reinstatement, the applicant shall leave the area of the works in a clean and tidy condition to the satisfaction of the Highway Authority
  18. The applicant shall keep the area of the works lit from 30 minutes before sunset to 30 minutes after sunrise
  19. Within two days of completion of the works the applicant shall give written notice to the highway authority. This shall be done by way of the ‘Completion Notice’ provided by the Highway Authority
  20. The date and time when the Highway Authority will resume responsibility for maintenance of the works will normally be two years from the proper date of the completion of the works. Until Highway Authority assume responsibility for maintenance of the works the applicant shall be responsible for any claims arising from the work or any necessary maintenance works and associated costs. Necessary works shall be determined by the Highway Authority
  21. Excavation works within Root Protection Areas (as defined within BS5837) must be undertaken either by hand-digging or compressed air excavation and must be supervised by the applicants arboriculturist (arboriculturist as defined within BS5837)
  22. All roots greater than 25mm in diameter must be retained and worked around unless otherwise agreed with the applicants arboriculturist
  23. The principles of the National Joint Utilities Group (NJUG) Volume 4 guidance must be adhered to
  24. The canopy and Root Protection Area of trees and shrubs must be protected with fencing (as per BS5837)
  25. Access onto unsurfaced ground within the Root Protection Area must be via ground protection (as per BS5837)
  26. Failure to adhere to use of ground protection within RPAs MUST be mitigated by use of a decompaction tool e.g. TerraVent/AirSpade/APEX VOGT GeoInjector (or similar)
  27. And, should tree removal be required/become necessary, liaison with Hampshire County Council’s Arboricultural Section is required. Hampshire County Council as the Highway Authority in Hampshire, will either refuse permission or will require to be compensated for the loss of highway tree assets. The Capital Asset Value of Amenity Trees (CAVAT) methodology will be used as the basis for the valuation assessment


  • The 'highway' includes the carriageway, footway and any verge.
  • If the applicant objects to these conditions or a refusal by the Highway Authority to approve a licence then he may appeal to the magistrates' court.

The approval process

On receipt of your application, an engineer will visit the site to determine its suitability.


Due to the nature of this type of licence, applications can take up to 28 days to process. Although applications related to vehicle crossings are often processed within 10 working days. Any excavation should not commence before approval of the application has been issued.

  • £454
  • per licence

If you would like to cancel your application after submission, you may not be entitled to a full refund if work has already commenced to process it.

You will receive an automated receipt when paying for this service. No VAT is charged as this is a non-business service and the VAT is classed as ‘out-of-scope’. However, should it be required for your records, Hampshire County Council’s VAT number is GB 189 4068 22.


Be sure that you understand the conditions and charges.

Upon application, you will be required to pay the fee. Have your payment details ready before submitting your application.