Whilst every development needs power, the presence of existing electricity infrastructure on or under a development site can be a real issue for developers, often resulting in costly and lengthy delays.

Here are our top takeaways for dealing with problematic electricity infrastructure:

  • Identify any electricity infrastructure

In most cases, electricity substations and overhead electric lines will be obvious and will be picked up by a site inspection. Underground cables, etc., cannot be so readily identified and a detailed utilities search should be carried out as part of the due diligence.

  • Contact the Distribution Network Operator (DNO)

In most cases, the infrastructure will belong to the local distribution network operator: SP Distribution for the south of Scotland and Central belt and Scottish Hydro Electric Power Distribution for the north of Scotland. High voltage transmission lines will belong to either SP Transmission or Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission.

  • Check the titles and property documentation

Check the titles, etc. to see if the infrastructure is covered by any existing "land rights", for example a wayleave agreement or deed of servitude. If there is documentation, seek advice on whether that provides any current land rights for the apparatus. For example, a wayleave agreement granted by a previous owner will not normally bind current and future owners.

  • Contact the relevant Wayleave Registry

As wayleave agreements are not normally registrable in the Land or Sasine Registers in Scotland, they are often lost over time and may be difficult to trace. Both Scottish Power and SSE have wayleave registries and enquiries should be made there for missing documentation.

  • Are there lift and shift provisions?

Seek advice on the terms of any documentation which contains lift and shift provisions. How do these work and who picks up the relocation costs?

  • Who picks up the bill?

The power companies will usually be amenable to relocate or divert their infrastructure to facilitate redevelopment, provided this is at the developer's cost. It is therefore essential to understand what property rights and statutory rights the power companies have in relation to that infrastructure. If these rights don’t apply or are limited, the power companies may have to pay for or contribute to the relocation costs.

  • What if there is no documentation?

Even where no documentation can be found, the equipment may have statutory protection and statutory procedures will need to be followed to require it to be removed or relocated.

  • Statutory powers

Where the power company has no right to retain its equipment in place, the power companies have compulsory purchase powers and can use these powers to acquire rights to retain their equipment in place. There is often a trade-off between the cost of moving equipment against the cost of compensating the owner for loss of development if the equipment is not moved.

  • Act early

Negotiations with power companies takes time, so making contact early is recommended so that a resolution can be reached, and delays avoided.

If you have any concerns or questions about the presence of electricity infrastructure and how it may affect your proposals, please do not hesitate to get in touch with one of our infrastructure experts or your usual Brodies contact.

This article is part of a series covering utility management on development sites and others on Telecoms and Water Mains and Sewers are also available.


Scott Logan