What is a Section 278 Agreement?

Tuesday 16 April 2024

A Section 278 Agreement is a section of the Highways Act 1980. It allows a developer to enter into a legally binding agreement with the Highway Authority (i.e. the Local Highway Authority, or National Highways if the development is on a Trunk Road) to permanently alter or improve the public highway. It is a contract which is prepared by the Highway Authority’s solicitor before being issued to the developer’s solicitor for review and signing.


What does the agreement detail?

The Agreement details the agreed improvements or additions to existing roads and infrastructure that are associated with a new development. The required improvements are set during the planning approval process – it will be necessary to alter the existing highway layout for most development sites.

Improvements or additions can take the form of road widening, a junction into the development (i.e. a priority ‘T’ junction, signal-controlled junction or roundabout) or the provision of off-site improvement works (i.e. a cycleway, controlled crossing, traffic calming measures, etc.), which have been identified to negate the impact of the new development on the existing network.


What is it for?

The Section 278 Agreement gives the Highway Authority the opportunity to certify that the roads, footways/cycleways and infrastructure being provided will meet its required standards; it will check the design before granting Technical Approval, reviewing all of the design information submitted including horizontal & vertical alignments, street lighting, road signs, road marking, specification of construction materials, drainage systems, and other associated features.

Like a Section 38 Agreement, a S278 serves as a mechanism to allow the Highway Authority to supervise construction, to ensure that the developer’s contractor constructs to an acceptable standard before it is formally adopted. The developer’s contractor will likely be asked to provide evidence, via test certifications and documentation, to demonstrate that the construction and materials meets the specified criteria.

Once the improvements to the road are completed to the satisfaction of the Highway Authority, and development land required to facilitate the improvements has been transferred, the responsibility of maintaining the improved road then passes from the developer to the Highway Authority.


What are bonds?

In the majority of cases the developer will be required to set up a bond – the purpose of the bond is to protect the Highway Authority against the developer failing to complete the agreed works, for whatever reason.

The developer will also need to pay a fee as part of the Agreement, which covers the Highway Authority’s costs for checking the designs, setting up the legal agreement, site inspections and calculating the commuted sums.



PFA Consulting can assist in all areas of the Section 278 process, from conception, the production and submission of preliminary and detailed designs for Technical Approval, reviewing draft legal Agreements, preparation of legal plans to arranging topographical surveys and Road Safety Audits.