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Last edited 15 Feb 2022
Statutory undertakers are bodies that have been given statutory powers in relation to functions that are of a ‘public’ character. Statutory undertakers may have rights (such as the right to carry out certain works without obtaining the normal permissions) and obligations (such as the supply of utilities).
Statutory undertakers include public bodies such as the Post Office, Civil Aviation Authority, the Environment Agency and so on, and private bodies such as those performing functions in relation to railways, canals, electricity supply, gas, water, sewerage and electronic communications.
 Right to connection
In October 2012, Schedule 3 of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 came into force. This requires the inclusion of sustainable drainage of surface water (SUDS) in developments that require planning approval or have drainage implications. It removes the automatic right established by the Water Industry Act to connect to public sewers and instead gives powers to local authorities as SUDS Approving Bodies (SAB’s) to approve new drainage systems and their connection to public sewers.
For domestic premises, the statutory undertaker (now referred to as the incumbent water company) must supply a connection to the boundary of the street (within a reasonable agreed time), but onward supply is the responsibility of the owner, and if this requires passing through others land, this may mean agreeing an easement or licence with third party land owners. If the street supply is not within a reasonable distance, the owner can require the undertaker to extend their mains, but this may incur a payment.
For non-domestic premises it is for the owner and the undertaker to reach an agreement, but if such an agreement cannot be reached, then the Director General of Water Services will make a determination.
NB Water Bill, Glossary: water terms, published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in November 2013, describes an English undertaker as: ‘An undertaker whose appointment area is wholly or mainly in England. Undertakers are generally appointed on river basin catchments rather than political boundaries. Severn Trent is the only English undertaker whose appointment area extends into Wales. This means they have some Welsh customers, e.g. in Powys.’
Owners or occupiers have the right to receive a gas supply within a reasonable, notified time if the premises are within 23 metres of an existing mains. Otherwise, they may be connected by a pipe that they have laid themselves.
Owners or occupiers have the right to receive an electricity supply within a reasonable, notified time, to an agreed maximum power. However the owners or occupiers may be required to pay any reasonable expenses incurred.
Following the privatisation of British Telecommunications (BT), the terms for the provision of electronic communications are dependent on individual operators licences, statutory regulations and the term of the supply contract with the owners or occupiers. BT has however been designated as the provider of universal service in the UK, and under The Universal Service Obligation (USO) BT has obligations in relation to the provision of access to the telephone network, schemes for consumers with special social needs and public call box services. BT also has obligations in relation to data provision under the Enterprise Act.
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