Energy, and particularly renewable energy, is a priority for the Scottish Government. Ministers wish to see the development of energy infrastructure to facilitate renewable energy projects and intend to streamline the process so that it happens quicker and without unnecessary obstacles. We need members to share their experiences of the process by which utility companies acquire rights over private land compulsorily. We are seeking initial comments so that we can help shape a forthcoming consultation on new Scottish Government guidance for landowners and utility companies. There will be an opportunity to provide further comments once the consultation is published in August.
The companies who distribute or transmit electricity (licence holders) and have duties contained in legislation to develop and maintain an efficient, co-ordinated and economical system of electricity distribution and transmission. In carrying out their functions licence holders operations will often impact upon privately owned land (e.g. pylons or power cables). In many cases agreements to allow licence holders to locate equipment on private land are reached voluntarily (whether by voluntary wayleave agreement or deed of servitude), but statutory powers exist to allow licence holders to compulsorily acquire the necessary rights. Compensation is dealt with separately by the Lands Tribunal. When rights are acquired compulsorily, these are called “Necessary Wayleaves” and legislation sets out the procedure, which varies depending on whether the rights required are for new equipment or to retain existing equipment where a landowner wishes to have it removed.
The Scottish Government has recognised that the current process for Necessary wayleaves can be unduly protracted and adversarial. It is therefore planning to publish good practice guidance for parties involved in the necessary wayleave process. There will be a short consultation in August but we would like feedback from members ahead of the consultation. We need to hear about your experiences of the necessary wayleaves procedure (both positive and negative) as well as your suggestions for how it could be improved. The guidance will not cover compensation issues, although it is accepted that compensation drives behaviour. We seek comments on the necessary wayleave process rather than compensation. Comments on the form and content of the necessary wayleave document are also sought.Whilst consultation is only on guidance at the moment, legislative change is not ruled out, so suggestions for this are also welcome.
Some issues identified already include:-
- the need for meaningful engagement by the licence holder with the landowner upfront,
- clarity about the nature of the rights sought,
- adequate training of wayleave officers who often lack an understanding of agriculture