North East land agents, H&H Land and Property, are advising farmers in the region to check any electricity wayleave agreements they have in place.
The firm, which has offices in Carlisle and Durham, is warning landowers to be vigilant after seeing a number of cases in recent months involving incorrect documentation.
Director David Quayle said: “It is always worthwhile checking your agreement; often apparatus has been changed over the years, and documentation has not always followed.
“It may be the case that you are not getting the full compensation to which you are entitled.”
The electricity networks in England and Wales are governed by the Electricity Act 1989 (as amended by the Utilities Act 2000) to develop and maintain an efficient, co-ordinated and economical system of distribution and transmission.
Although the companies involved are private, their role is considered a public service one and legislation gives the operators the requisite power to comply with their statutory duties and obligations.
Mr Quayle said: “Electricity companies need permission to install their apparatus on private land. Usually they do this by negotiating an agreement called a ‘voluntary wayleave’.
“In theory, this can only be enforced against a particular owner but there are very serious ramifications in entering into this type of agreement which, at first sight, seems to be capable of being terminated.
“It is essential for you to take specialist advice if you are asked to enter into this type of arrangement.”
Once installed, apparatus puts an obligation on both the owners and occupiers under health & safety legislation.
If the apparatus is installed in and around the farm yard, it can become difficult to develop and extend existing buildings.
If farmers want to terminate a so-called ‘voluntary’ agreement, they need to serve notice on an electricity company, asking them to remove their equipment.
In those circumstances, the company can make a compulsory purchase order or, more likely, an application to the Secretary of State for a ‘necessary wayleave’.
Companies may also obtain a Voluntary Easement, which is a permanent right that runs with the land.
Naturally, compensation in such cases would be significantly higher than the annual payment received for easements.
However, while the electricity and farming bodies produce guidance on the matter, the so-called ‘national voluntary agreement’ does not commit any party to a particular course of action.
Landowners are free to negotiate their own terms in response to their own particular circumstances.
Mr Quayle said: “In our view there is no substitution for professional advice, and we would urge all landowners with electricity apparatus on their land to seek specialist advice.
“We have years of experience in dealing with these matters and dealing with various electricity companies on a daily basis.”
H&H Land and Property is the H&H Group’s specialist chartered surveying and land agent firm, working across the North of England, the Borders and South West Scotland.
The company provides a full range of professional services, from advice on estate management to planning and development.