09 November 2012, A Government consultation exercise with a short deadline could have long lasting consequences for land owners and electricity network operators in England and Wales.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is seeking comment on “Necessary Wayleaves Regime, a consultation on proposed reforms to the Electricity Act process”, with responses required by November 28, 2012.
“Ignoring this initially dull-sounding consultation could have far reaching and long-lasting consequences with a permanent detrimental effect on property values,” warns Chris D’Olley, a senior rural partner at national property consultancy Carter Jonas based in Winchester.
One suggestion is that the current 15 year lifespan of compulsory ‘necessary wayleaves’, granted by the Secretary of State after an inquiry when voluntary agreement could not be reached, could be amended and there is a risk that equipment could be installed on a permanent basis.
The ‘necessary wayleaves’ are binding on subsequent owners so where the land is sold potential future values could be affected if later opportunities for development become viable but the electricity equipment prevents this. A permanent easement, perhaps granted to service a generation scheme that itself has a limited–life planning consent, could literally destroy any chances of future development unless there are provisions to deal with this and make compensation available.
Where agreement cannot be reached, the ‘necessary wayleaves’ process involves a hearing. Land owners and their agents also use the hearing process to force network owners into making better compensation offers through brinksmanship as the hearing nears. Network owners are faced with a large bill for costs and the desire to avoid this helps force a settlement. But the new rules propose the Government being able to levy charges against all parties in an appeal.
At the same time, the process would change so that all parties, instead of just network operators, have to attend a hearing or submit written evidence. If the new rules are imposed, landowners would become subject to charges, meaning they would have to pay far more attention to hearings and show good reason why attendance was not possible.
DECC is also suggesting a code or practice should be drawn up by network owners, land owners, and their agents. This could be a useful tool for speeding the processes but everyone needs to be aware and involved.
No landowner can afford to ignore this consultation. With the rise in green energy schemes and constant policy changes, infrastructure requirements may lead to power line installations many miles from where people predict them now.
“If landowners fail to participate, network operators could gain the upper hand by compulsory powers and the permanency of equipment installations. Landowners risk becoming powerless and could see real values stripped from their property forever.”