In a classic example of private individuals triumphing over big business, a farming couple who refused to lie down after their grazing land was damaged by pipe-laying works have won compensation of almost £6,000 from a public water company.
The company had exercised compulsory powers under the Water Industry Act 1991 to dig six holes on the couple’s land whilst laying a water main. The field had not been properly reinstated, in that topsoil had been mixed in with subsoil. The dispute came before the First-tier Tribunal (FTT) two years after the event after lengthy negotiations failed to achieve a resolution.
In its ruling, the FTT noted that many small landowners might have balked at taking on a public utilities company. It criticised the company’s ‘fairly intransigent’ attitude in adopting ‘a take it or leave it approach’ to the couple. It had only admitted its failure to properly reinstate the land when faced with legal action.
The couple argued that their field had been torn up by excavators and other vehicles during the works and that parts of it remained unfit for grazing. Tonnes of topsoil would need to be imported to restore the field to full production.
As well as £250 for the disturbance they suffered, the FTT awarded the couple almost £4,000 to cover the cost of reinstating their land. With other sums to compensate them for lost production, weed control and professional fees, the total award came to £5,886.