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Statutory Undertaker Refused Warrant to Enter Premises under the Water Industry Act 1991

Michael Fry

Water and sewerage companies (known, with other types of utility companies, as “statutory undertakers”) have statutory power to enter land to lay pipes and alter existing pipes under the Water Industry Act 1991. Given the importance of water and sewerage, water companies have extensive powers of entry onto land – and in the event of an emergency, no notice of entry is required.

It is rare for landowners to challenge statutory undertakers in relation to the exercise of their statutory powers, and even rarer for such a challenge to be successful. In this case, the landowner was only provided with notice of the urgent application for a warrant of entry less than 24 hours before the hearing. However, following a contested hearing, Canterbury Magistrates’ Court refused the water company’s urgent application for a warrant to enter premises in order to carry out what it described as emergency sewerage works.

The magistrates accepted the landowner’s case that the use of his land was not for an emergency purpose, the water company were using their statutory powers for convenience rather than necessity, and in those circumstances the use of private land by the water company was not a reasonable exercise of statutory powers. The warrant of entry was refused. The water company and the landowner have now agreed commercial terms for the use of the land.

Michael Fry represented the successful Respondent, instructed by Matthew Champ of Boys & Maughan.