17 April, 2023
Farmers are often required to give contractors access to their fields so that they can work on utilities pipes or cables that run beneath them. However, as a High Court case showed, they do not have to put up with unreasonable damage to their land.
This case concerned a field crossed by an underground high-voltage cable. The utility company’s contractors carried out work to the cable in wet weather, leaving the fields with significant damage.
The farmer, having what can only be described as an informal tenancy, brought proceedings against the utility company for the loss caused by the negligence and damage. However, the informal manners in which the farmer used the land led to a multitude of questions, which the company raised. These included whether the farmer had any right to bring such claim, and as to the loss which was being claimed.
Ruling on the matter, the judge found that he had exclusive possession of the field. Even had there been no tenancy, the physical and economic reality was that he had sufficient control and right of possession over the field to enable him to maintain an action for trespass.
The judge was satisfied that the contractors’ conduct was such as to cause damage to the field which went beyond what was contemplated or permitted by the wayleave rights. The company plainly owed him a duty to take reasonable care to see that the field was not physically damaged during the works or at least to ensure that any damage was repaired in a reasonably prompt manner.
As a result of the damage, the farmer’s plans to grow a cash potato crop on the field in the relevant season were thwarted. There was also a loss of yield on a spring barley crop. The company was ordered to pay him £58,652 in damages, not including interest.
If you wish to discuss further or have a similar issue, please contact Holly Rainford on 01244 400 567 or email@example.com