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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 69369
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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Hi, I have an Anglian Water Vent Pipe (6 metres in height)

Customer Question

Hi,

I have an Anglian Water Vent Pipe (6 metres in height) situated on my land - it is connected to the Public Mains Sewer which runs along the length of the adjacent public road.

AW has no record of the VP but says I can't move it or interfere with it as it is an integral part of the sewerage infrastructure.

They are not able to adduce any evidence of its existence (is not on the AW Asset Plan);
Unable to provide any maintenance or inspection records;
Unable to prove any title - AW simply refer to its statutory rights under the Water Industry Act 1991. My property deeds do not show its existence or any rights vested in AW.

They have sent me a form (Section 185) to complete and asked for various plans etc. and a supervision fee of £1,000 (could be more). This form is for the diversion of a Public Sewer, which is not required.

Development works have commenced and additional risks will exist once the substantive building works commence.

I would like to instruct my contractor to remove it but AW is suggesting it will be an offence if I do so.

Can you are to offer any guidance.

Kind regards,

XXXXX XXXXX
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
Hi.

Thank you for your question. My name is Jo and I will try to help with this.

How can I help with this please?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hello,


 


I would like to know my rights in this regard.


 


Basically, I want to instruct my contractor to remove the pipe.


 


If I leave it in situ, it will interfere with the building works and be more costly and/or risky to move later.


 


AW has messed me about for the last couple of months....time is of the essence!


 


Kind regards,


 


David

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
Thanks

I presume that you want the pipe to be removed? And the utilities company want £1000 to look at it and then a further fee for diverting the sewer.

If the pipe has been there for more than 20 then they will have acquired an easement under the Prescription Act to allow it to remain I'm afraid.

Unfortunately then they will not have to pay you to keep it there or to remove it.

Sadly also they will have far more to spend on litigation than you would probably consider cost effective.

I wish I could give you better news but if its been there for more than 20 years thats your position Im afraid.

Can I clarify anything for you?

Jo
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

There is not evidence that it has been there for 20 or more years. AW is unable to say when it was constructed or (as I mentioned) unable to provide any maintenance or inspection records.


 


It is not shown on AW's asset plan, they have no evidence of any easement and the none of the conveyances/deeds/epitome of title make any reference to it.


 


The only evidence that AW has is that I have said there is a structure there.


 


The sewer does not need to be diverted....I accept that the sewer & manhole covers etc belong to AW....they are shown on the plan (located on the public road) it's the VP I would like to remove which is on my land and joined by a short pipe from the sewer and can be capped off.


 


All houses are vented these days and it performs no useful purpose.


 


What risks do I face if I instruct my contractor to remove it?


 


Kind regards,


 


David


 


 

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
If you remove it without consent you face being prosecuted for criminal damage and sued for the cost of replacing it.

The correct way forward is to get some proof that its not been there for 20 years and then take them to court to remove it.

If they have no records of this then they could convince the court that its been there for longer than their records cover.

I don't know how long you have been in the property for but you may be able to get statements from previous owners covering when the piping was put in unless, of course, it has been in place for more than 20 years.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hello,


 


If the VP is not shown on its own Asset Plan (whereas the Sewers & Manhole Covers are), how can they convince a court that it has been there more than 20 years.


 


Please see the details below:


 


Local Land Charge Searches – Con 29 (1994) – Question 2 Drainage Enquiries


 


Dated 1 June 1995



Reply by Anglian Water



Foul Water Drainage



2.1.1 To the Company’s knowledge, does foul drainage from the property drain to a public sewer – Yes



2.1.2 If yes, does the property drain into the public sewer through


(a) a private drain alone or – Not Known


(b) a private drain and then a private sewer – Not Known



Adoption Agreement



2.4.1 Is any sewer serving, or which is proposed to serve the property the subject of an agreement under section 104 of the Water Industry Act 1991 for the sewer to become vested in the Company as a public sewer – No


 


Is AW able to rely upon:


 


"omnia praesumuntur rite et solemniter essa acta"


 


In your view, would AW win on the balance of probabilities?


 


Kind regards,


 


David

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
I do understand that nothing shows up in the search but that harms your case I'm afraid.

You are free to make the applications but if you lose you face a costs order approaching £10k if this is contested.

It might be cheaper to get them to remove the pipe even if they demand payment.

At the moment whilst they have no proof that this has been in for 20 years you have no proof that it has not. In that case, a court is unlikely to order in your favour.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you.


 


Given that it has taken AW some 2 months to acknowledge that the VP can be removed (at my expense) and eventually send me the form required to facilitate this, surely it can be properly argued that they have caused an unnecessary delay which will mean that the Method Statement/Risk Assessment now required (at the time of making the initial request works had not commenced, the foundations are now in and the walls will soon go up) will be more complex and costly.


 


Surely AW can be held to account for failing to mitigate its/my loss given that the delay was unnecessary and avoidable?


 


If I make the formal application and agree to pay the fee, am I them free to challenge AW (in court) later?


 


 


Kind regards,


 


David

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
Thanks.

I am sorry but I cannot see how you have been prejudiced by the two-month delay when you are started the work of your own volition.

I also don’t see how you can agree to pay their fee and then argue later that it is unreasonable in court.

What you could possibly do is argue that they were holding you to ransom and charging an extortionate fee because they knew how important this was to you and that the removal of the pipe is not rocket science, and your own agents could have removed it for a fraction of the cost that the utility company wanted to charge.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hi,


 


The £1,000 is just the fee for AW supervising the works.


 


There will also be the additional cost of my contractor or AW's contractor removing it.


 


If I am able to prove that it has not been there for 20 years am I able to successfully force AW to remove it or take it down myself?


 


Regards,


 


David


 


 


 

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
If you can prove its not been there for that long then you would have a case to seek an injunction.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hi,


 


Does the fact that pretty much all sewerage infrastructure became the responsibility of the Water Utility Companies with effect from 1st Oct 2011 under the Private Sewer Transfer not make a positive outcome unlikely? (as whatever it was/wasn't before does really count for much).


 


I almost feel defeated by this....sorry to be exhausting your patience!


 


Kind regards,


 


David


 


 

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
No problem.

If it is a pipe on your land solely serving your property it is your responsibility.

If it is used by anyone else, even though it may be on your land, it is not your responsibility.

You are responsible for the sewer from your property either to where it joins another sewer or the boundary of your property.

So, if for example another pipe joins it halfway down your garden, you are only responsible as far as the other pipe.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hi,


 


The VP is on my land and is connected to the Public Sewer by a short pipe.


 


The Public Sewer carries on down the public road for a short distance and then crosses my property.


 


Kind regards,


 


David


 


 

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
Its still their responsibility because it goes into the main sewer.

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