Tag: a landowner's guide to utility works

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With land ownership or occupation, it is almost inevitable that at some point a utility company will need to cross your land to lay a new pipe, cable or other apparatus. Receiving notice of impending works from a utility company is always daunting, but as the utility companies generally have statutory powers to enter land, it is something which needs to be tackled head on.

Given the number of utility projects taking place in our region at present, we thought it would be useful to give key points/tips to assist those affected.

1. Early Engagement
We tend to find that engaging with the utility company, their agents or contractors at an early stage improves the outcome for the affected party. Once a scheme has been designed, it is often difficult to agree changes and therefore early engagement allows you to raise concerns during the design stage thus giving the contractors time to build these into the scheme design, where possible. Our advice is that if you do receive a letter of intended works, either engage with the company directly or let us know and we can do so on your behalf as soon as possible after receiving information regarding the proposals for the scheme.

2. Statutory Notices
Where the utility company has statutory powers of entry, there is a requirement for formal notices to be served. We always check these notices to ensure they have been properly served and are legally effective.

3. Keeping Records
The utility company should compensate you for your reasonable time spent on the scheme and reasonable agent’s and solicitor’s fees. From the outset of the scheme, you should therefore keep a diary of any time you spend liaising with the utility company so that we have the evidence to include in the claim for compensation.

4. Record of Condition
Most utility companies will take a record of condition prior to works commencing. If they do, it is important to ask for a copy to ensure it is adequate. Alternatively, or in addition, it is often useful to take your own record of condition. The record of condition can then be used to ensure the land is reinstated to the same condition as prior to the works and compensation can be claimed if it is not.

5. Soil Storage & Management
The utility company should be mindful of the soil type and how to manage it during the works. Where soil is stripped, the topsoil and subsoil should be stored separately to allow proper reinstatement. If additional cultivations are required post-reinstatement, these can be included in the claim for compensation.

6. Access
The utility company should do its best to maintain access to land severed by the scheme during the works and thereafter. If access is restricted, either temporarily or permanently, this can be factored into any claim for compensation.

7. Drainage
Land drainage is often affected by works to lay pipes or cables. Ensuring the drains are properly reinstated after the works is key to minimising yield reductions in future years. If drainage plans are available, providing these to the utility company at an early stage means drainage can be factored into the scheme design rather than as an afterthought. For some schemes we are able to agree comprehensive drainage works but, even for smaller schemes, we always ask that the location of any drains found during the works are GPS mapped and that the farmer has the opportunity to inspect any repairs prior to reinstatement of the soil.

8. Claiming Compensation
The utility company is required to compensate you for any losses incurred as a result of the scheme. This includes the value of any land permanently acquired, devaluation of land, crop loss, your time, professional fees and any other properly incurred losses. When we put together compensation claims, we may be required to provide evidence to accompany the claim to prove the losses. Therefore, the more information you can give us with regard to additional cultivations, loss of crop, issues with drainage, etc, the easier it is to make the claim and the quicker the claim can be settled.

Whilst no one wants utility works on their land, they are an inevitable consequence of land ownership. It is therefore important to make the best of a bad situation and work, as far as possible, with the utility company to minimise the long-term effect on your holding. Robinson & Hall has extensive experience in acting for landowners against utility companies, so if you do receive notice of impending works, please contact one of our rural team for advice.