Guidance for safer places in the highway

Guidance and advice on how safe, social distancing measures can be maintained as shops and businesses begin to re-open.

To ensure appropriate safety measures can be put in place for communities across Suffolk, the county council is working closely with its local authority partners, town councils and the business community to develop guidance and advice on how safe, social distancing measures can be maintained as shops and businesses begin to re-open and current lockdown restrictions are relaxed over time.

This will include empowering local councils and the business community to make small-scale temporary changes to enable safe, social distancing, without the need to seek consent from Suffolk County Council.

Where there is a requirement or desire for larger, more detailed changes to be made in the community, these will need to be discussed with county council officers to understand how this can be achieved.

This work follows the government’s recent announcements that set out a number of conditions to encourage communities to begin preparing for the return of high street businesses and the re-opening of communal areas in towns and other areas of Suffolk whilst the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions begin to ease.

Any of the temporary changes made during this time will be kept under review and Suffolk County Council will continue to work with its partners to adapt to government guidance and review what support is needed to help the local economy.

The council has received a number of enquiries and requests to date, asking for a range of measures relating to making safe places in local communities. These requests are being grouped into the following categories to help the council understand the highest priorities and what work is required in different areas of the county:

  • Small-scale changes – changes that communities can make themselves, without contacting Suffolk County Council. These will be local safety measures on pavements that outline queuing areas, social distancing reminders or simple painted markings on pavement surfaces for pedestrians.
  • Medium-scale changes – changes that will require communities to contact Suffolk County Council for support. This will be anything that needs to happen off the pavement, or anything that Suffolk Highways will be required to deliver such as temporary signs, barriers and cones. This may also include simple traffic regulation notices or orders, and licenses for seating, planters and other semi-permanent obstructions.
  • Large-scale changes – changes that will require communities to contact Suffolk County Council for support. This will include any road closures or extensive changes to how traffic is managed and semi-permanent works such as painting lines on roads, pothole patching or works such as installing dropped kerbs.

If the activity that the community wants to carry out requires working on, or in the road, then the county council will need to be contacted. If communities are unsure of where their proposed changes fit, they are encouraged to contact the county council, at:

Local councils and businesses should consider the following when carrying out small-scale changes in their communities:

  • That safe working practices are used when installing these safety measures; activities are carried out on the pavement and not in the road and to carry out works in quieter periods of the day.
  • Type of paint being used i.e. non-toxic or consider small thermoplastic markings of appropriate symbols that can be easily removed.
  • Laminated signs – should be fixed to street furniture (such as lighting columns), with cable ties only to avoid damage. Consideration also needs to be given to having these signs at a safe height of 2.1m or 2.4m on cycleways, and ensuring they are visible.
  • Excavation of any kind is not permitted, nor is fixing anything to the floor due to the possibility of there being underground cables and pipes.
  • Those with disabilities such as wheelchair users or impaired visibility; and those with prams, double buggies or trollies to ensure they have sufficient space on the pavement to pass safely.
  • Town councils should monitor and review signs and the condition of paint marking to ensure these are clear and safe.
  • Please check to see if others are working in the same location and to work around these sites.
  • Local areas should follow government guidelines on safer public spaces.

Please note, anything placed in the highway without the permission of the highway authority is an unlawful obstruction under S137 Highways Act 1980 - if you are unsure of whether or not you need to contact us, please err on the side of caution and get in touch, we will be happy to assist.

If a town or parish council wants to implement more medium or large scale changes, they must email Suffolk County Council, at: