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Farmer fights for compensation in two-year water pipe wrangle

A farmer who found himself in the middle of a water pipe wrangle has been refused further compensation from United Utilities (UU) despite more than two years of disruption.

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Farmer fights for compensation in two-year United Utilities water pipe wrangle

Philip Trafford, who runs a flock of Beltex sheep at Keswick, Cumbria, said his land had been compulsory purchased to make way for a pipeline to take water to Thirlmere reservoir.

 

UU said the project would link West Cumbria to the rest of its regional water network via a ‘major new pipeline’ from Thirlmere and refurbishing more than 100km of existing pipe network. The plan was to reduce the amount of water taken from Ennerdale, its lake and the River Ehen.

 

The water company vowed to ensure there was a ‘minimal longterm environmental impact’.

 

But Mr Trafford said it was working with ‘deep peat’ and workers had put about 9ft of rock on his land to build an almost mile-long road through his fields, as well as a lagoon to store the water.

 

Works on the pipeline has also affected Mr Trafford’s two neighbours.

 

Mr Trafford said: “One of the drivers said he expects to be working on it until Christmas.

 

“It was two years ago when UU said a pipeline was going to have to go through our land.

 

Reimbursement

 

“We have asked if we are entitled to a bit more compensation, but they do not seem to want to give us any. They are reluctant to give us farmers a decent reimbursement.”

 

Mr Trafford added it was unlikely his land would be restored to how it was before the work started.

 

“We just thought we were getting a pipe,” he said.


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“They do not consult with us. When you see the scale of the heaps of land, you know it is going to be a big job restoring it.”

 

UU said it first served notice in December 2016 and carried out a full public consultation and planning application for the route of the new pipeline.

 

A spokesperson assured any land disturbed during the building of the pipeline would be reinstated in full.

 

“We had full liaison with the owner and agent of Bassenthwaite Hall Farm,” a spokesperson said.

 

“Mr Trafford has received an early interim payment.

 

“We are waiting for his land agent to submit the entire claim for assessment and final payment.”

ADVICE FOR FARMERS IN A SIMILAR SITUATION

 

MATT Gilks, an associate solicitor in Thrings’ agriculture planning team, said there was a number of statutes which provide water, gas, electricity, telecommunication and other utilities entry on to land for works to lay cables, pipes or to erect apparatus.

 

But the precise entitlement to carry out works depends on its statutory powers, he said.

 

“Much hinges on the extent of the works and whether there is a pre-existing voluntary agreement,” Mr Gilks said.

 

“The utility may have exercised compulsory powers of acquisition of a freehold interest in the land, or a perpetual right to burden the land by laying or erecting apparatus.”

 

What to consider if the utility has exercised compulsory powers of acquisition, as compensation rests on a number of factors:

 

■ What interests or rights have been acquired?

 

■ What is the extent of the works permitted to be undertaken?

 

■ Is an owner-occupier or tenant farmer affected?

 

■ What is the value of the land and the impact of the work?

 

Mr Gilks added: “Where the parties have voluntarily entered into a legal agreement, the scope for compensation is referable to an interpretation of the terms of that agreement.

 

“Ordinarily, such agreements are negotiated by surveyors and solicitors and may include terms relating to the extent and timing of the works, responsibilities for managing the scheme, dealing with works compounds, the mitigation of impacts and how compensation ought to be calculated, and how disputes are resolved.”

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