A way forward for wayleaves?

10 February, 2017

Wayleaves, anyone? In this week’s edition of Cripps Pemberton Greenish’s very own trainee solicitor blog, first year Tristam Razzell looks at the effectiveness of the new wayleave toolkit.

 

Everyone likes having a fast broadband connection in their home, and a Wi-Fi network that does not incessantly ‘drop-off’. Indeed, we perhaps take for granted the ease with which we can (generally) enjoy faultless, high-speed digital media in our living rooms; at the flick of a switch we can immerse ourselves in a personal pixelated environment. Although in the case of the law student, it is perhaps immersing oneself in the group WhatsApp, feigning the latest blockbuster release for the battlefields of IP law or the combat of Tort. Regardless of how you choose to spend your evenings, you will do so with fibre optics frenetically firing with minimal attenuation, safe in the knowledge you will always be connected.

But what does a business tenant do if they wish to enjoy these same high-speed, high-adrenaline privileges, but their current digital infrastructure is out-of-date, non-compatible and generally, well… a bit rubbish?

Enter the wayleave.

A wayleave is an agreement whereby the owners of a property gives a service provider (usually a digital infrastructure provider) the right to install, access and maintain pipes, cables and other associated equipment within or over their property, usually for the benefit of a tenant.

For example, the digital infrastructure provider may have permission from the landlord of the property to come in, rip out all of the dated copper wiring and replace it with high-speed fibre optic, which of course will be of huge benefit to a business tenant.

However, the current wayleave system is fraught with delay and unnecessary complication.

In an owner occupied property, where the negotiation and agreement is usually between two parties, the process is relatively simple. However, the situation becomes more complicated in multi-occupied commercial offices where negotiation will often be multi-party, and space and access come at a premium. In short, there is no standard wayleave document or toolkit used across the board, with landlords and digital infrastructure providers each preferring to use their own custom wayleave agreement. This often means protracted negotiation and dispute, which leaves commercial occupiers disgruntled with how long it can take for something as relatively day-to-day as basic internet access and telephony systems.

In pursuit of the high-speed, things can, rather ironically, go very, very slowly indeed.

How is the system changing?

As a result of the introduction of a standardised wayleave toolkit by the City of London, which is backed by the Mayor of London and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, change is imminent.

The toolkit includes a standardised wayleave agreement along with a guidance note, step-by-step flow chart and risk assessment document. Its function will be targeted at simplifying the wayleave process in multi-occupied commercial buildings, with the potential benefit of speeding up the legal process from months to (potentially) weeks, and ensuring all parties can save on costs. The unnecessary and disproportionate cost and delay of protracted negotiation and dispute will be a thing of the past.

It also has wider ranging benefits. Streamlining the wayleave process will ensure high-quality digital infrastructure can be implemented at a greater speed, which in turn will help drive productivity and growth in other sectors of our economy. These improved connections will also allow businesses to move their commercial operations to the cloud (as we have seen recently with Cripps Pemberton Greenish), along with granting more agile businesses the technological benefit of home working and teleconferencing. This will be of benefit to many UK businesses, particularly those who will need to re-align to a more ‘plug-and-play’ structure in the face of growing international competition and market uncertainty.

It is clear that the economical and technological arguments for a wayleave toolkit that utilises a consensus driven standard are strong, and that with this new toolkit, there is finally a sensible way forward for the wayleave. In time, Cripps Pemberton Greenish will be looking to utilise this toolkit to better serve our clients in their business objectives, and to ensure we get them to where they need to be at an affordable cost.

It would serve any aspiring solicitor well to know the wither-tos and why-fores of the humble wayleave – a traditionally ponderous document that is finally getting up to the speed befitting of a legal instrument that initiates and integrates high speed digital infrastructure across our cities.