Is it appropriate for a street authority to have a blanket requirement that portable traffic signals are manually operated?

No, this practice is unacceptable and it conflicts with the safety code and statutory guidance on permit schemes. The safety code clearly indicates that vehicle actuation is the norm for portable traffic signals.  On pages 63 and 64, it says "… portable traffic signals may only be used under the following circumstances … they are vehicle-actuated (unless otherwise instructed by the highway authority) …".  Given the emphasis on vehicle actuation, it is quite clear that the code intends manual control to be the exception.  This is reinforced by the text on page 66 that says "Manual control of the signals should only be used to stop traffic if the shuttle lane has to be occupied for short periods (e.g. for unloading), or in other permitted circumstances.". 

A blanket requirement for manual operation therefore directly conflicts with the intentions of the safety code.  Where a street authority insists on portable traffic signals being manually controlled, it should do so on a case by case basis and the reasons for requiring it at a particular site should be made clear to the utility.  With regard to permit schemes, any condition applied to utility works would have to apply to the authority's own works (regulation 40 of the 2007 permit regulations related to parity). Since 2015 there has been no ability to develop local conditions and use of a blanket condition applying to a large number of applications conflicts with statutory guidance.  It is also contrary to the HAUC operational guidance issued in 2016.