These notes are for guidance only. They are not a statement of law and you should seek legal advice if necessary.

COVID-19 risk assessments

If you are organising an event where the public are invited to attend, you must carry out event specific risk assessments.

You'll need to submit the risk assessments to our Safety Advisory Group (SAG) along with the normal event management documents. The SAG can then advise us and you if the event complies with current regulations and guidance.

In this article

This article includes:


Appendix 1: Rules on the placing of traffic signs.
Appendix 2: The law governing road closures.
Appendix 3: Duties, powers and responsibilities.

Basic principles

Events, both on and off the highway, are an important part of the community, but they can also cause significant traffic disruption on both the local and wider road network. It will also have bearing on how successful the event is deemed to have been, possibly affecting future attendance.

It is important that events are carefully planned to minimise traffic congestion and risks to safety on the highway. This guidance will assist an event promoter identify potential traffic problems and provides advice on how to avoid them.

The information in this document complements the advice in the documents:

Putting an appropriate traffic management plan in place may not be cheap, but it is not acceptable to cut corners with this important process on the grounds of cost, even if the event is a charitable event, as safety cannot be compromised.

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Impact on residents, local businesses and the road network

Events should always be scheduled to avoid clashing with peak travel times.

Wherever possible, on-highway events, such as triathlons, should be arranged to be undertaken on private land, or away from busy roads and with as few right turns as possible. Running races should also be planned to make use of footways.

Events should be planned to ensure that access for residents, businesses and premises is not compromised, or where it is, mitigating measures should be negotiated. The event organiser should advise and discuss with local representatives to ensure that the local community is aware of the event and that their concerns are addressed.

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Traffic control and signing at events

The public have no lawful powers to direct traffic at planned events.

Dorset Police operate a scheme whereby event promoters or traffic management companies may obtain accreditation for staff to direct traffic for events. Accredited staff can then direct traffic on the public highway in strict accordance with the traffic management plan for that event.

Dorset Police CSAS Accreditation

Full contact details

Directing or control of traffic can also be achieved using signs and most events will require signing of some sort, either to advise traffic of road closures and diversion routes, changes to road layouts or to help in minimising traffic disruption.

The test of any signing schedule is “do the travelling public have the information they need at the right place to enable them to complete their journey safely and not to have to perform any dangerous manoeuvres for themselves or endanger anyone else”. The signing must be clear, simple and fit for purpose to the required standards for the class and speed of road.

Any signs placed on the highway must be deployed by a competent person, and an event organiser should consider employing a traffic management company to reduce risk.

Advance signage should also be considered to advise motorists of upcoming events so that they can plan alternate routes. This is important to help reduce the background traffic on the network that does not want to get caught up in event traffic. Such signs should only include the key information and be set up generally one week prior to the event.

Once the use of signs has been decided the event promoter should create a sign schedule clearly listing the following:

  • location of each sign
  • type of each sign
  • time / date of placement and removal
  • sequence of placement and removal
  • frequency of any inspection (if needed)
  • time / date of removal
  • competency details of persons placing, maintaining and removing signs

Any signing schedule must be submitted to the council for approval. The Community Highways Liaison Team can authorise signing for small scale events. However, if the signing is part of a large event that requires a Temporary Traffic Regulation Order, then approval is required from the Traffic Team.

The event promoter is responsible for procuring the appropriate signs and employing appropriately trained staff to set out, maintain and remove them at the end of the event.

Signs are not allowed to be attached to lighting columns in Dorset.

Portable variable message signs

Portable variable message signs (PVMS) should be considered on higher usage roads, as their visual impact is much greater and are key for any major event traffic management plan. You will need to hire these from a traffic management company. You can either instruct them to submit an application on your behalf, or submit one yourself.

Apply to place a portable variable message sign

We require a minimum of 10 working days notice. There is no charge for approval of this application.

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Road space, road closures and diversion routes

Road space should be booked at least six months in advance in line with Home Office guidance. This is to ensure the event doesn’t clash with any planned works or other events.

Book road space for an event

Should you wish to reserve road space prior to formally applying for your event, please apply online. Reservations are charged at £25 plus £1 per additional road.

As road closures cause disruption to drivers, pedestrians, residents and businesses, they should only be considered once all other options have been exhausted.

Closing a public road, footway, footpath or verge without a lawful closure order is illegal.

If an event cannot be run without a road closure, then event promoters are advised to consider the following factors in the earliest planning stages:

  • do you have enough resources to procure and maintain the signs needed?
  • are your staff competent/trained to place, maintain and remove signs?
  • have you applied for and received permission for the closure from the council?
  • have you consulted with residents/politicians/businesses/organisations and local disability groups about the closure?
  • have you consulted with any local religious organisations as they may require access to buildings during the closure?
  • what are the options for diversion routes? The council will ultimately decide the appropriate diversion route, but the event promoter will have to submit their proposals for consideration at an early stage – generally at least 13 weeks in advance
  • are there any dual carriageways or major roads that might be affected? If so, a closure may well be refused or direction signing could be prohibitively expensive
  • have you consulted with local bus companies and emergency services regarding the closure?
  • have you made any contingency plans for emergency access to your closure, for example to attend an accident?
  • what plans are there to remove broken down vehicles from within the closure or the diversion routes?
  • what plans have been made to avoid/remove vehicles already in place before the closure starts?
  • what plans are there to enable businesses or residents to access their property within the closure?
  • what training / briefings will be provided to event staff managing the closure?

See appendix 2 for information about the law governing road closures. Event promoters should engage with the council at an early stage to discuss strategies for engaging with key stakeholders.

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Pedestrians and public transport

The event promoter must consider alternative transport arrangements for people attending the event. Facilities should be considered to prevent pedestrians being dropped off on unsuitable verges, and safe pedestrian access via footpaths must also be considered.

Event organisers should plan for drop off points and access / arrangements for people arriving by public transport. It is strongly recommended that the event promoter encourages the use of public transport wherever possible. Shuttle buses and special arrangements with local public transport operators must be considered for events with large numbers of attendees.

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Traffic and travel information for event attendees

The arrival times and modes of transportation event attendees take, will be directly influenced by their knowledge of the local area and the information provided by the event organiser.

Event organisers are encouraged to provide event attendees with as much information as possible for them to be able to plan their journeys. Details of public transport facilities should be provided, including any special arrangements made for the event. For well attended events it is recommended that event organisers encourage attendees to arrive over a long period.

Travel Dorset provides information and signposting to travel advice and journey planning content.

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Bicycle time trials and races – special regulations

These events have specific regulations - the Cycle Racing on Highways Regulations 1960.

The regulations require the promoter to notify the police at least 28 days before the start of the event. For time trials, if notice is given in accordance with these regulations the event is authorised. Less notice may be given, but this would be subject to police approval. For races, no automatic authorisation exists. Permission from the police must be obtained before the event can go ahead.

Event organisers should reserve the road space through the council to try to ensure their event does not clash with any planned works. There will be a small charge for this service. Any planned works can be viewed on a map. The promoter is reminded that authorisation of the event by the police does not remove the liability for safety or disruption, or the obtaining of any other authorisations, permits / closures etc.

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Weather considerations

Event promoters should prepare written plans for adverse weather, because it can significantly worsen the event’s impact on local traffic.

Promoters should have a plan for cancelling or postponing the event at short notice, with arrangements for contacting all organisations involved.

If wet weather is likely, promoters should also arrange to have equipment on site for moving stranded vehicles from entrances and exits and cleaning the public highway of mud. Equipment could include: tractors with towing hooks, road sweepers and tyre washes.

Wet weather is also likely to severely reduce ingress and egress rates to ‘off highway’ events and car parks. The event promoter should make alternative arrangements for maintaining optimum ingress and egress rates. For example; providing matting or hard-standing on fields for car parks or having additional access and egress points.

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Traffic management meeting

Before the event, we strongly recommend that event promoters arrange a traffic management meeting in addition to, or as part of the Safety Advisory Group (SAG) meeting that are arranged through the council. Those attending usually include:

  • event promoter and their traffic management representative
  • representative from the council
  • Dorset Police

Alternatively, after reviewing draft event plans, the council or the police may call a traffic management meeting.

At the meeting the event promoter will:

  • brief attendees on the traffic matters relating to the event
  • present a draft traffic management plan

The council and the police will:

  • give advice on how to minimise traffic disruption and maximise traffic safety
  • help the event promoter plan the event more effectively and help finalise the traffic management plan that will then have to be submitted for approval

Depending on the size and nature of the event, other organisations may need to attend the meeting, such as:

  • other emergency services
  • local special interest groups
  • bus operators
  • neighbouring councils
  • Highways England (if the event affects any trunk roads)

A meeting after the event can sometimes help promoters highlight measures that worked well and improve planning for future events.

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Traffic management plan

We recommend that all events have a written Traffic Management Plan (TMP) as part of the overall Event Management Plan (EMP). The events TMP should be submitted to the council with a minimum of three months’ notice prior to the event together with any application for Temporary Traffic Regulation Orders (road closures, speed limits, etc) which need a minimum of three months notification.

The TMP is a very useful document for everyone involved in managing an event because it:

  • helps identify traffic risks and actions taken by the promoter to minimise them
  • provides invaluable information in case of an accident or incident

In some cases, approvals for event licensing, road closures, or use of traffic signs may be conditional on the event promoter having a TMP.

The size of a TMP document will largely depend on the impact an event will have on the highway. Impact is not necessarily only determined by the size of the event. Other factors, such as the nature of the roads to be closed / affected will also have a significant affect. As a rule, any event planned to take place on, or affect any road with a speed limit of 50mph or higher, or that is classified as an A or B road is likely to have a higher impact on traffic and will therefore require more detailed planning.

TMPs for a local fete or carnival may only run to a single page. TMPs for major events such as the Great Dorset Steam Fair will consist of several chapters. In all cases, the same main issues must be covered although the detail and extent of coverage will be different.

The TMP should include information on all or most of the following:

  • contact details
    • contact details of the person responsible for traffic management
    • contact details for other relevant organisations involved in traffic management
    • confirmation of road space booking details
  • sign schedule, road closures, traffic signal
    • roads to be closed and signed diversion route
    • a signing schedule
    • any Temporary Traffic Regulation Orders required for example road closures, temporary speed limits, lifting of parking restrictions, temporary one-way system
    • any arrangements made with the council about the control of permanent traffic signals
    • competency/qualifications of those placing signs or directing traffic
  • estimated size of event
    • the expected number of people and vehicles coming to the event
    • the anticipated arrival times/profiles and peak event traffic times
    • as above, but for dispersal
  • emergency procedures and bad weather contingency
    • emergency access routes agreed with fire, police and ambulance services, together with details of how these routes will be kept open
    • contingency arrangements for bad weather
  • parking and public transport
    • number of parking spaces available
    • details of how parking and illegal parking will be managed
    • details of drop off points and access for public transport
  • impact on the local traffic network
    • details and agreements made to prevent congestion on the local and wider traffic network including information provided to attendees about travel and traffic
  • traffic related lessons learned from previous events - it is very useful to keep records of what worked well, and problems/risks to be aware of
  • summary of consultation and planning - details and outcomes of consultations with all appropriate organisations and local groups, including:
    • residents, businesses, religious groups & community associations
    • local authorities, the police and Highways England
    • local disability groups
    • local public transport operators

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Bunting, banners and decorative flags

Bunting, banners and flags are a traditional feature of sporting and other large events. Licencing of such decoration on or over the highway is managed by the council. You must apply for a licence to permit the hanging of bunting and flags on or over the highway.

When erecting bunting banners or flags please be aware of yours and others safety. Do not erect them where they will block access or sight lines. Also ensure that what you will be attaching them to is solid and secure. Never attach the m to power or telephone cables. If you are attaching them to private property always ensure that you have the property owner’s permission. Permission is required from the council to attach anything to sign posts, and thought must be given to whether it will possibly obscure the sign, damaging any protective paintwork, wind loading, or affect visibility in any way.

Apply to erect bunting, banners and decorative flags over the road

Applications must be submitted at least three months before the banner is due to be put up

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Smoke from large bonfires may drift over roads and obscure the vision of drivers and pedestrians' vision and potentially lead to accidents. It is essential that organisers of bonfire events take this risk into account in their risk assessment.

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Costs in the event of promoter's failure to manage traffic safely

If it unfolds that the traffic management for an event is not safe, the council may intervene, and if the event promoter is not able to rectify the situation in an agreed time frame, then the council may take any appropriate action to recover the situation.

All reasonable costs incurred by the council will be recharged to the event promoter.

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Other issues

The event promoter should also consider any further requirements, licences or permits that may be required, for example:

  • trading on the highway
  • sale of alcohol
  • installation of any temporary structures

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Useful contacts

The main point of contact for an event promoter with the council regarding traffic management plans, should be the Traffic Team within Dorset Highways.

Other contacts are:

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Please note: these notes are for guidance only. They are not a statement of law and you should seek legal advice if necessary.

Appendix one - rules on the placing of traffic signs

Rules on the placing of signs are set out in the Traffic Signs Manual. The signs themselves must comply with the requirements of the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002. The following advice should also be taken into account when deciding where and how to place signs.

They should be:

  • placed to avoid obstructing those using the footway or vehicles in the road
  • placed to avoid obstructing the sight lines for traffic or pedestrians at crossing points or junctions
  • placed with due consideration to those with disabilities
  • placed with due consideration of those using pushchairs or those in wheelchairs
  • sandbagged, where appropriate, to minimise the chances of them being blown over
  • placed to avoid obstructing visibility of existing signs
  • attached in such a way as to avoid damaging poles. Permission must be obtained from the Highway Authority before attaching signs to street furniture

Sign set up and removal should not normally be undertaken during peak traffic times (usually 7am to 9.30am and 4pm to 6.30pm) and signs should not include any form of advertising.

The clarity of any signs to be used is critical for the safety of all road users. When planning to place signs you should ask yourself the following question;“Will someone coming along the road or footway from any direction be able to tell at a glance exactly what is happening and what is expected of them?”

If the answer is “no” then your sign schedule or placement is wrong and may create dangers. You should review your schedule with a view to improving the layout and/or the types of signs used.

Signs left out overnight, located in residential areas, near to pubs or left during severe weather may be subject to theft, vandalism or damage. Accordingly, event promoters should make plans for regularly check the condition of the signs and maintain them as necessary. Inspection schedules should be included in the sign schedule.

Placing, maintaining and removal of signs on a ‘live’ road is hazardous and should be identified on any risk assessment. Measures should be taken to ensure that the signs are placed and removed safely and that they will not cause either a physical or visual obstruction to vehicular or pedestrian traffic.

Placing, maintaining and removal of signs should always be undertaken by a ‘competent’ person. Appropriate competency will depend on the nature of the event and the road where the signs are being placed. However, as a minimum, anyone placing or removing signs should be:

  • an adult and physically fit to carry and place / remove the sign
  • wearing appropriate, high visibility clothing
  • briefed on the exact requirements of the sign schedule
  • aware of the road and the dangers involved

Additionally, to place or remove signs on high risk roads or locations, a competent person will be someone who holds valid qualifications under unit 0002 (signing, lighting and guarding), New Roads and Street Works Act 1991. Alternatively, similar qualifications such as the National Highway Sector Scheme (modules 12D T1 and T2) may also be acceptable. A high risk road or location will depend on a number of factors such as the type of road, timing of the sign placement, speed limit and traffic volumes. Some examples of ‘high risk’ situations could be placing signs:

  • on roads during peak traffic times
  • on roads with no footway and with a speed limit of 50mph or greater
  • on the central reservation of a road with a speed limit of 50mph or greater

The traffic authority giving advice on signage or the authority approving a road closure will be able to advise on whether sites are considered high risk and such qualifications are necessary.Once the event is over, it is essential the signs, including temporary traffic lights, be collected as soon as possible. The event promoter should agree a date and time of removal and ensure the signs are removed on time and safely. Any signs left on site beyond the time stated in the schedule may have to be cleared away by the council or the police and a charge may be made for such service.

Purchasing signs and training staff may be expensive, so clubs / groups may want to find ways of minimising these costs by:

  • grouping together to purchase equipment / train members
  • seeking assistance or sponsorship from responsible highway contractors, such as utility companies

Portable traffic signals and stop / go boards are another type of ‘sign’ and are a common sight at road works. They are also occasionally used at events to control traffic movements. They can cause serious traffic congestion and are a potential safety hazard if not used correctly, so their use must be clearly demonstrated, well defined and carefully planned. Appropriate equipment must be obtained from a reputable supplier and must be fit for purpose.

If portable traffic signals are used then stop / go boards must also be available on site, in case of light failure. Stop/go boards must not be operated at night without appropriate lighting. Operation of portable traffic signals or stop/go boards is a high risk task and must be undertaken by a person qualified under unit 0002 (signing, lighting & guarding) New Roads & Street Works Act 1991 or similar qualifications such as the National Highway Sector Scheme (modules 12D T1 and T2).

In all cases, the use of portable traffic signals and stop / go boards must be approved, in writing, by the traffic authority. Proof of staff qualifications and appropriate £10 million public liability insurance will be needed along with detailed plans for the use of the equipment. The traffic authority may set conditions relating to the use of the equipment.

Apply for a licence to place temporary signals

We require a minimum of 10 working days notice. There is no charge for approval of this application.

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Appendix 2: The law governing road closures

Dorset Council use the Road Traffic Regulations Act 1984 legislation for temporarily closing roads for sporting / leisure events on the highway. Such events include cycle races, triathlons and running races.

It must be noted that each road can only be closed once per year using the Road Traffic Regulations Act 1984 for an event without getting special permission from the Secretary of State.

Public Liability insurance is required for all road closure orders made using the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 by the traffic authority, which will almost always require £10 million in cover.

There may be costs associated with processing a road closure order that the event promoter will need to meet, and these are published on our website.

Following the correct legal procedure for processing road closures takes time, so there is usually a minimum notice period required for any road closure request. This will depend on the road being closed, the legislation being used and the type of event. Notice periods range from six weeks to six months. Event promoters should contact the traffic authority to find out what precise notice period required as soon as the need for a closure is decided. Without the correct notice period, it may not be possible to process a closure application.

Most road closures will require a diversion route. Diversion routes are usually decided by the traffic authority. The traffic authority will make every effort to keep the diversion route clear of other incidents, works or events. However, it is possible that an unplanned incident or emergency works have to be carried out on the diversion route. Accordingly, a backup diversion route may need to be considered. This is usually only necessary for large or events lasting more than one day.

Please note Dorset Council and Dorset Police no longer recognise the Town Police Clauses Act 1847 as appropriate legislation for the closure of roads.

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Appendix 3: Duties, powers and responsibilities

The various organisations and individuals involved in providing support, advice, authorisation or promoting events have a number of duties, powers and responsibilities.

The relevant highway ones can be summarised as follows:

  • Dorset Council is the highway authority and traffic authority and has:
    • duties to maintain roads to ensure safety and minimise disruption
    • duties to co-ordinate all highway activities/works
    • the traffic authority will also provide advice to event organisers regarding highway matters
    • powers to authorise road closures for some events using the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984
    • general duties to provide advice to event organisers primary contact for the licensing of all events
    • responsibility to convene a Safety Advisory Group for the event if deemed necessary
  • Dorset Police:
    • duties to prevent crime and disorder
    • duties to preserve public safety at a public event where there is an imminent or likely threat to life
    • general duties to provide advice to event organisers
    • powers to authorise bicycle races and bicycle time trials using “The Cycle Racing on Highways Regulations 1960”
  • event organisers / promoters:
    • general duties to determine and analyse all foreseeable safety risks associated with the event and take appropriate action to minimise the risks
    • general duties to plan and manage an event in such a way as to minimise disruption as much as reasonably practical
    • duties to obtain all relevant permission / licences and authorities required to lawfully hold the event

It must be noted that, besides the police powers to authorise bicycle races and time trials, no organisation has the power to approve or authorise an event on a highway. The only powers relating to approval or authorisation relate to road closures and, in certain cases, the use of portable traffic signals.

It is the event promoter’s responsibility to ensure the event is safe and causes minimal disruption. The Highway Code and traffic laws must be adhered to at all times. The event promoter may be liable to prosecution in the event of an incident resulting from his event. The advice and guidance provided by the police, council and traffic authority is aimed at minimising the risk of an incident occurring.

Event promoters are encouraged to contact Dorset Council:

  • as early as possible to discuss the event
  • as the local highway authority if the event affects the highway network

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