Utility Apparatus is Everywhere…

26th April 2018

Whether it is pipelines, cables, pylons, or electric poles…. utility apparatus is everywhere. We sat down with Robert Moore to discuss whether utility apparatus really is a welcome addition across your property.

I don’t think there are too many property owners, occupiers, or farmers who welcome utility companies installing poles, cables, pipes or pylons across their property. The upgrading of apparatus or even simple maintenance can be a headache. For those who are reading this article who are not farmers, this will still be relevant to you. Whether apparatus is crossing your garden, or car park in your factory unit, utilities run everywhere and the issues are the same.

Utility apparatus

Spring has been incredibly wet this year. Land is lying saturated and field drains are flowing at full capacity. The negative implications of utility companies taking access to carry out such works at the current time can be huge, especially if care is not taken. Soil structure can be damaged as compaction takes place, causing yields to be negatively impacted.  There is risk attached, as loss of income can be incurred through disturbance and inconvenience being caused to a farming business, and of course, the same applies if you’re not farming.

It’s often the smaller maintenance or re-stringing jobs that pass by without much notice, but can often cause long lasting damage. Admittedly, sometimes a utility company will do a good job, but experience tells me that unless matters are agreed prior to entry, often the subcontractors ignore sense and just focus on completion without due care and attention. Of late, we’ve had several major cases of injury being caused to livestock in bizarre circumstances, but avoidable if the utility company had protected the animals from equipment being left in fields. Likewise, I have experienced appalling reinstatement being undertaken to damaged field drains, in which if not tackled, cause long lasting implications.

You could say that as a utility company is statutorily obliged to pay compensation, does it matter? Well yes it does, because in most cases the people or businesses being affected aren’t being compensated to the full extent which represents their loss, and really most would prefer not to have the damage caused in the first place. So here are a few pointers on what to do:

  1. What rights do they really have under the various acts? Can they store equipment on the land/yard, can they just come in when they like, and what routes must they follow? Can they upgrade the equipment or just replace what is there?
  2. Terms of entry must be agreed – get a plan in place at the start, agree access routes that suit your business; agree rates per hour for damages (don’t forget your own time…as business owners/managers, you’re not cheap); yields, losses, grazing etc. these contentious issues can be ironed out at the beginning of the project.
  3. Keep an accurate record of your time in a notebook – don’t forget that they need to put you into the position that you would have been had the entry not occurred. If the scheme goes on for years, you’ll never remember all your inconvenience at the end.
  4. Don’t be seen to be unreasonable, but make sure you cover all points.
  5. Ask for advice and help, be that solicitors, agents etc – the costs will be covered by the utility company.
  6. Be careful about accepting full and final settlements.

Finally don’t let them bully or railroad you into agreement, make sure your rights are protected.

If you would like to talk more about the negative implications of utility companies taking access, please contact Robert Moore on 07590 230510 or robertmoore@georgefwhite.co.uk.

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