What is a section 278?

What is a section 278?

In a lot of the work we do, you will often find reference to a section 278 (or S278) agreement.

Section 278 is the part of the Highways Act 1980 that enables a highway authority to enter into an agreement with a third party to deliver improvements on the existing public highway. In our area, the relevant highways authority is usually Cornwall Council, but works on the A30 or A38 need approval from Highways England, acting on behalf of the Secretary of State for Transport.

An S278 is usually necessary where planning permission has been granted for a development that requires improvements, or changes, to the existing roads and pavements that form part of the publicly-maintained highway.

In order to deliver these improvements, the developer must obtain approval for the detailed design of the works from the highway authority and enter into an agreement that sets out how the works are to be delivered.  A lot of the time a S278 agreement is used to allow the development access to the existing road network.  However, it can also be used to provide improvements to the highway network required as a result of the development, or to provide a contribution for future works on the wider highway network.

An S278 agreement usually involves one or more of the following:

  • new  junctions, with and without traffic lights
  • roundabouts
  • right turn lanes
  • improved facilities for pedestrians and cyclists
  • improvements to existing junctions
  • traffic calming measures
  • traffic regulation orders

The agreement itself may include:

  • details of the relevant planning permission
  • the agreed design
  • details of any bond required
  • details of who will design and manage the works
  • provision for inspection and certification of the works
  • costs


Who carries out the work on a section 278?

Where the developer is entering into the agreement in order to deliver works, as opposed to just providing a contribution to further works, they will be responsible for the design of the works to the satisfaction of the council.

Where the works are to be carried out in a non-sensitive location, the council may also agree to the developer carrying out the works on their behalf.

However where the works are within a sensitive location, or the council considers they may cause significant disruption to the travelling public, then Cormac will undertake the work on behalf of thecouncil.


Who pays for the section 278?

The developer is responsible for paying the full costs of the works, including elements such as design, legal and administration fees, land acquisition and maintenance.


When do you start work on an S278?

A developer will submit an S278 application early on in the design process, in many cases at least 12 months before the works are required on site. 

Where the council has elected to carry out the works itself, they will liaise with Cormac to agree the programme of works and how this may fit in with other programmes on the network.  They will also look at any construction issues to ensure that, as far as possible, any delays or disruption to the public are kept to a minimum.

Although the council is involved throughout in discussing schemes and their timing with developers, ultimately the decision to go ahead with a scheme and enter into an agreement is the developer’s, and the council has no control over this.

Work usually starts within four to six weeks of the agreement being signed.

Wherever possible, the council attempts to tie in the work with existing works or other S278 schemes in the same or nearby area, but this is not always possible due to other constraints such as funding and programme delivery deadlines, planning requirements or availability of road space.

Where works can be combined, they usually are.

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