Considering Utilities for Commercial Developments

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Sidrah Ashraf - Associate

4 minutes reading time

Utilities play a pivotal role in any development, and without careful planning to ensure that essential services such as gas, telecommunications, electricity, water, sewerage and drainage are available, the consequences could be very costly and potentially fatal for a commercial development project.

Conducting Utilities Searches and Reviewing Existing Services

The key to successful planning for utilities at any development is to consider whether the existing services at the development site are sufficient at the outset rather than leaving these matters until a later stage.

Utilities searches must be conducted for the development site and reviewed carefully to determine the nature and location of the services and if they are compatible with the proposed use and layout of the development.   

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Considering utilities for Commercial Developments

Relocation and New Connections for Existing Services

Developers must consider whether existing services require relocation or if any new connections will be necessary.

A utility provider may require a lease, easement, or wayleave agreement regarding the land on which their new equipment will be laid.

Such documents usually require formal negotiation, which is likely to be a time-consuming process.

Where the utility provider requires rights to lay service media on third-party land, the landowner will need to be consulted, and a wayleave agreement will be necessary between the utility provider and the landowner.

If the third-party landowner refuses to cooperate, the utility provider may have recourse to statutory rights to insist on the grant of the necessary rights.

However, it is important that such matters are resolved in the early stages to ensure that the development remains viable.

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Relocation and New Connections for Existing Services

Scheduling Works and Managing Development Costs

In terms of practical considerations, the developer also needs to carefully schedule their works according to the party that will be conducting the relevant parts of the installation of the services.

It is likely that the developer’s contractors will dig trenches and make the service connections accessible, but it is the utility provider that will actually lay and connect the service media at the site.

The cost of making the required connections with the utilities at a development site should also be determined as early as possible in order to manage the projected development costs.

Relocation of utilities can prove to be an expensive exercise, and this could be an important consideration for developers when determining whether their development plans are cost-effective.

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Scheduling Works and Managing Development Costs

Accessibility for Inspection, Repair, and Maintenance

Once the plans for utilities connections have been established, consideration must also be given to accessibility for inspection, repair and maintenance of the service media such as pipes, conduits and wiring etc.

Not only do developers need to consider how they will access utilities in the future, but they also need to consider what the knock-on effects will be when creating openings for access to the service media.

If the access points are placed in key operational parts of the premises, the disruption to an occupier’s business could be disproportionately expensive.

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Accessibility for Inspection Repair and Maintenance

Considering Alternative Access Options

Alternative access options may need to be identified or created within the premises to minimise such disruption, and it is important that such issues are addressed before any plans are finalised, and work is commenced.

Developers must also consider whether they will require ongoing rights to access any neighbouring land for the purposes of repair, renewal and maintenance of service media.

Such rights must be negotiated and formally documented in a deed of easement to bind the neighbouring land.

It is evident that utilities can have a profound impact on the success of a development and should therefore be addressed at the earliest opportunity when formulating development plans.

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Considering Alternative Access Options

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Sidrah Ashraf's profile picture

Sidrah Ashraf


Sidrah has 6 years of experience acting as a Commercial Property solicitor. Sidrah has specialist expertise in landlord and tenant work, acquisitions and disposals, property development and finance acting for a range of corporate and individual clients.

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