Know your rights when it comes to Utility Companies and their Access Requirements

26th February 2014

Driving around the countryside, it’s amazing to see and think how many utility companies’ apparatus criss-cross the farming landscape. Occasionally, access is required to undertake repairs, renewals or replacements which inevitably results in damage being caused. This can be a real head ache especially if it is during wet periods and those who have utility improvement schemes across their land at present will only know this too well.

Most utility companies operate under various Acts of Parliament and therefore it is vital to have a good understanding of the underlying legislation and what statutory powers utility companies do and don’t have when they require entry. If your property is to be affected by such programmes, I would strongly advise all issues, such as access, storage and a full detailed breakdown of the scheme are addressed before any entry is permitted. Ultimately you need to be assured that you will be fully compensated for any loss you incur.

Under a normal utility improvement scheme, there are various compensation issues to consider, from your loss of income to any reinstatement operations required once the works are complete. I would advise reinstatement rates are agreed before entry is permitted which may include hourly charges for undertaking sub-soiling, discing etc to remove any deep ruts or soil compaction caused by the works. This makes a final claim much easier to settle and reduces the need for speculation. Many underestimate the time and cost of such reinstatement measures and this can be a contentious point when trying to settle a claim with the utility company.

Thirdly, inconvenience and disturbance payments. It is vital that from the start, you keep a record of all your time spent in correspondence with the utility company and any inconvenience this may bring, including your time speaking with an agent representing you. Such time records should also include any additional requirements such as amendments to your agri-environmental stewardship scheme, additional time spent in spraying, harvesting or cultivating or taking more time feeding or checking livestock.

In addition to the above, there may also be a capital payment due if a new easement is created. This will relate to the diminution in value to the property the installation of the new apparatus brings. Such claim should not be overlooked, and it is very important to get a clear understanding of the effect such apparatus can have on the value of the underlying asset. If a new wayleave is created or an existing altered, make sure the agreement is accurate and you are receiving the correct annual payments.

Lastly, don’t forget that the utility company will cover all your expenses including the appointment of an agent and other professionals to act on your behalf. Getting the correct professional advice is vital to ensure you are fully compensated and all your concerns are addressed right from the start.

We will be holding a couple of breakfast sessions covering this subject along with a brief CAP update, the first being held at the KP Club near Pocklington on 21st March and the second at Cedar Barn Farm Shop, Pickering on Monday 24th March. For more details or to book your place, please contact us on 01430 876010.

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