A congestion-busting scheme launched by Surrey County Council to cut the pain of delays and boost the local economy has received backing from business leaders.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has flagged up the county council's initiative of last year to take control of who digs roadworks where and when with the launch of a permit scheme.

The council said its scheme means roads are dug up and closed less often, cutting hold-ups and saving Surrey’s economy around £6.5 million a year.

Previously, firms could only be asked to look for ways to limit congestion.

But a county council spokesman said: “So far, more than 3,700 applications from utility companies and other organisations working on roads have been rejected for failing to limit the impact on traffic.”

FSB regional chairman Antonio Falco said: “Our members do raise concerns periodically over road works causing traffic disruption near their businesses, and efforts to reduce this are most welcome, although we do recognise that essential road works for public safety reasons and the reliable provision of utilities, such as broadband, are equally important to our sector.”

Surrey County Council leader David Hodge said: “As well as being a huge source of frustration for motorists, traffic jams cost businesses money, which damages Surrey’s economy.”

Coun Hodge said: “That is why more than 3,700 roadwork requests have been rejected since we launched our permit scheme.

“And when we do approve works, our new system ensures they’re better planned and coordinated, so Surrey road-users can get from A to B more smoothly.”

The council has dealt with more than 30,000 Surrey roadworks applications since the scheme was introduced with East Sussex County Council last November, after getting approval from the Government.

Launching the permit scheme last November, the council said it estimated it would result in up to 2,400 fewer roadworks in the county every year. The council stated its roads teams would have the power to force firms to time their works to fit with other companies’ plans for the same road, to pay for a roadworks permit, and to follow clear rules, including times and days of work. If workmen break a permit or dig without one, the council said its roads team would be able to hand out a fine and prosecute the most serious offences more easily. The council said the permit scheme would also mean utility companies could be ordered to display information signs with their contact details and a project reference number, as well as write to residents.