No matter where you live in the UK, you are likely to be governed by local byelaws. These are rules that local councils and other organizations such as water companies, conservation trusts and transport authorities can create and enforce. They are defined by their local and specific scope; they usually only apply to one particular activity or area. These are an important tool for solving local problems and are widely used across the country.
What is a byelaw?
A council might make a byelaw governing how people can use a public space such as a park, for instance. Byelaws can be made for any purpose; however, they must not deal with anything that national law already covers. This seriously restricts the scope in which they can be applied.
Why do we need byelaws?
National laws are intended to cover most situations but can’t address the multitude of different circumstances that exist across the country. National laws also take a long time to create and pass. Local byelaws can be enacted quickly by the people that they will affect. Byelaws can also be created by people who are experts in their field; the Marine Management Organization makes byelaws about conservation in marine conservation zones, for example. This makes byelaws a flexible way to create suitable rules for a wide range of circumstances.
Who makes byelaws?
Most byelaws are made by local councils. However, some major organizations such as water companies and public transport authorities may also be granted the ability to enact byelaws. Some private companies, too, may have this power. Generally speaking, the byelaws an organization can make are strictly limited, and will only affect very specific activities within their remit. Byelaws are always enforced by the local magistrates’ court, which may issue fines of between £500 and £2,500.
How are byelaws created?
Currently, all byelaws must be approved by central government. The local authority will place a notice in the local newspaper and provide a copy of the byelaw so that it can be inspected before being approved. After a month, central government will approve the law, and it will become enforceable. This process looks set to change soon, with local authorities no longer needing to gain authorization from central government. This decentralization has already taken place in Wales and may well roll out across the rest of the UK in the next few years.
Byelaws in your area
Byelaws are useful and important for managing our country, and let local authorities decide how best to govern their areas. To find out more about byelaws in your area, visit your local council’s website.