Changing a wayleave on farmland – what are my rights?

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Many landowners will be familiar with the term ‘wayleave’ if they have utility apparatus crossing their land – pylons or gas pipes, for instance. But what does mean in practical terms and can you influence the terms of a wayleave on farmland you own? Julie Liddle looks at the issues involved.

Understanding wayleave arrangements

Wayleaves are described by the CLA as “an annually renewed right of use by apparatus over or under someone else’s land for which payment is made”.

Examples of such apparatus includes pylons placed on land by electricity suppliers. These are common sights in the UK countryside, and most will have been placed there many years ago through wayleaves with terms agreed by the CLA and other farming organisations (NFU, etc).

There are slightly different rules for different types of utility. For instance, telecommunications cables laid by BT Openreach and electricity cables are covered by a national agreement, with gas pipelines under a compensation code.

Protecting your interests

I would always urge landowners to never sign up to any kind of contract without first consulting a specialist surveyor. The establishment of utility apparatus needs to be correctly negotiated with terms in writing. There is much to consider both pre works and during the works.

It is also not uncommon for landowners to find that wayleave agreements signed in good faith involved incorrect documentation. For instance, the apparatus used on the landowner’s property has been updated, but the paperwork has not. This can mean landowners have not been paid the correct levels of compensation.

If you let land, who claims the wayleaves? Sometimes no one does and a back payment can be claimed.

Wayleaves and the sale of land

One bone of contention for landowners is the difficulty a wayleave can cause if they are hoping to develop their land or sell the property.

Depending on the location of the apparatus, it may be difficult or even impossible to extend a farm, for instance. In these circumstances a landowner may hope to terminate or change the wayleave arrangement.

Notice may need to be served on the energy company for removal of the equipment, but at this point the utility provider has the right to compulsorily purchase the land or even apply to the Government for a “necessary” wayleave.

Getting the right advice

Selling a property could become difficult following the installation of such apparatus. If there is significant visual impact, or a perception that the apparatus could harm public health, compensation may be due or it may be possible to route lines or pipes underground.

As ever, the best course of action is to consult an expert to look at which option is most suitable for a landowner’s individual circumstances.

Robson and Liddle has a dedicated land and utilities service, advising farmers and landowners on issues such as wayleaves. For more advice on this, or any other rural land and property issues, call Julie on 01768 254 354.