New water and sewer connections will be required for most developments, but it is often existing infrastructure requiring removal or diversion that causes most difficulty for developers.

Here are our top takeaways for dealing with problematic water and sewerage infrastructure:

  • Identify any water and sewerage infrastructure

Underground pipes, drains, culverts, sewers, etc., can be difficult to locate. A detailed utilities search is recommended at an early stage and appropriate site investigations should be undertaken as part of the property due diligence.

  • Establish who owns the apparatus

Scottish Water has a duty to provide and maintain the public water supply and sewerage systems and public water mains and sewers vest in Scottish Water. Scottish Water has statutory duties to keep detailed records of its water and sewerage infrastructure and their asset maps can be obtained from approved map providers for a relatively small cost.

  • Are there any rights for private supplies and drainage?

Deal with third party rights over land at the earliest opportunity. It may be the case that water pipes, drains, etc., are privately owned and so the title deeds and other property documentation and contracts should be checked to establish if there are any servitudes, wayleaves or similar documentation in respect of any privately owned infrastructure.

  • Check that statutory procedures have been followed

Scottish Water has statutory powers to install/construct new water mains and sewers following service of statutory notices on affected owners and occupiers. Scottish Water can also authorise third parties to do so. If it is unclear that the statutory procedures have been followed, request evidence of this from Scottish Water or the relevant third party.

  • Alterations to Scottish Water assets

Any diversion works will need to be agreed with Scottish Water in advance and carried out at the developer's cost. In limited circumstances, Scottish Water may agree to a build over/asset protection agreement allowing existing infrastructure to remain in place, provided suitable provision is made for future access and maintenance.

  • What if a diversion is required onto third party owned land?

Developers can apply to Scottish Water for authorisation to divert water mains and sewers under Scottish Water's statutory powers. Scottish Water will expect the developer to consult and negotiate with any affected owners and occupiers, prior to authorisation being given.

  • Do not delay

Any relocation/diversion works will take time, particularly if a diversion onto third party land is required. Act quickly and agree the proposals with Scottish Water and any other interested parties at an early stage.

If you have any concerns or questions about the presence of water or sewerage 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 Electricity Apparatus and Telecoms are also available.


Scott Logan