As a property lawyer specialising in agriculture, I’m regularly asked to advise clients on existing or proposed landowner’s rights for energy and communication providers. These rights fall into two main categories:
- Easements – the right of one landowner to make use of another nearby piece of land for the benefit of his own land
- Wayleave agreements – a form of consent in writing allowing a third party access to install, maintain or repair energy equipment in return for annual payments. Wayleave agreements are not permanent, although some wayleave agreements are protected by statutory ‘code powers’, which can allow energy companies access onto land in any event.
Landowner’s Rights: The Good News
When it comes to wayleave agreements, there is good news for landowners thanks to the introduction of the national ‘fixed line wayleave framework’ which took effect on 1st October 2018. This sets out the rights and responsibilities of both providers and landowners.
Thanks to the efforts of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) and the National Farmers Union (NFU) there is a 5% increase in the wayleave payments offered by national operator Openreach, for fixed-line broadband cables and equipment, as well as a 4% increase in payments from alternative providers such as Gigiclear and Virgin Media. Whilst the rates are advisory and not compulsory they provide landowners with a much better deal.
Landowner’s Rights: Things to Consider
It is still essential that landowners negotiate the best terms for their wayleave agreements as they would for an easement. Matters such as the route and depth of equipment should not be overlooked, as a landowner will need to ensure that his or her farming activities do not interfere with the equipment.
If you are a landowner intending to grant new rights or renew existing rights it is important that you obtain professional advice to ensure the terms of an easement or wayleave are suitable and won’t limit the continued agricultural use of the land or any future development.
For more information, please contact James Goddard in our Commercial Property team on 01244 305942.