In May 2018, the first of sixty pylons were erected in Kent that will eventually form the largest new power line to be built in the UK since the building of the electricity transmission system in 1961.
This new power line will run from Canterbury to Sandwich connecting ultimately, via undersea cable, to the European power network near Bruges, Belgium. Power infrastructure improvement projects such as this ultimately require cooperation from local landowners. Utility companies will enter into agreements with individual landowners along the proposed route, most commonly in the form of a wayleave agreement or a deed of easement. These types of agreements differ in duration and the level of compensation but can also have a more significant impact on the value and use of land.
This new network of pylons presents opportunities to some landowners—particularly those in the countryside—to receive significant payments from the utility infrastructure companies. However care must be taken that the right kind of legal agreement is reached and the terms and rights granted do not overly restrict the use of the land or significantly devalue the property:
A wayleave agreement gives a utility provider contractual rights to install, use, and maintain structures, underground cables and overhead lines on privately owned land, in return for either a lump sump or, more commonly, annual payments.These agreements are set for a number of years and many have termination provisions. While wayleave agreements appear flexible, utility providers enjoy statutory protections and terminating an agreement triggers a legal process which safeguards the utility provider.
A deed of easement differs in that the right to install, use, and maintain the utility infrastructure is given in perpetuity and runs with the land through a conveyance, binding all future owners of the property. When entering into these agreements, the premium received is usually considerably more than a wayleave agreement, but only the grantee will enjoy the windfall. Subsequent land-owners will receive no compensation but be subject to the burden of sharing their land with a utility company, potentially reducing the value of the land.
Importantly, both types of agreement give a utility provider significant powers over the land and landowner.
The utility provider is given power to restrict the proprietor’s use of the land, including placing stringent conditions on building, planting or altering the ground near pylons and under overhead wires. The utility provider also enjoys access rights to repair and maintain the infrastructure with limited notice requirements to the landowners.
Please read Reliance on information posted in our Terms of Website Use - see Legal section - before relying on this commentary.
A map of the pylon route from Canterbury to Richborough, near Sandwich