The Corporation of London has developed a standardised legal document to speed up the installation of superfast broadband.
The tool should make for easier and faster legal agreements, so that the installation of improved digital connections takes place more quickly. And, with the buy-in of landlords, developers, legal firms, trade associations and broadband suppliers, it is hoped the tool will be widely adopted, to the benefit of all.
“Broadband is the lifeblood for successful firms so it is essential they have access to high-speed internet when they move in,” said the corporation’s policy chairman Mark Boleat. “Any efforts which reduce the time and cost in getting superfast broadband in the capital are a welcome step. It has been great to see so many interested parties pulling in the same direction to get this legal template agreed.”
A key part of the new document is a standardised wayleave, a legal draft that replaces agreements previously drafted from fresh, on each occasion. Delays in agreeing wayleave contents have, in the past, led to delays of months in the provision of the broadband that businesses need.
The toolkit, substantially created by the Land Law Committee of the City of London Law Society, will be widely promoted through borough planning policy. Developer Brookfield & Oxford Properties will be one of the first to use the new document, in arranging broadband installations at its London Wall Place development.
Among those involved in creating the new documents were the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, British Property Federation, UK Competitive Telecoms Association, the Independent Networks Cooperation Association and the major broadband providers. James Kavanagh, director of the land group at the RICS, commented: “The standardization of urban wayleaves are critically important to telecommunications connectivity and high technology use within the built environment. Commercial real estate needs to operate and connect to global telecommunication systems and a modern standardised ‘wayleave’ agreement is an enormous step towards easing the development process and providing high speed services to owners and occupiers.”
And Charles Begley, executive director at the City and Westminster Property Associations, commented: “This is an important body of work which will help simplify and speed up the often torturous process of getting essential utilities into new buildings. The current system is clearly not fit for purpose and is adding unnecessary costs and delays to London businesses at a time when we need to be focusing on our competitiveness in the face of growing international competition.”
The document is also heading out across the capital more widely, promised Claire Kober, chair of London Councils: “London boroughs are constantly looking for ways to attract businesses, but the process of installing broadband in business premises has long been an exasperating task. This new toolkit will reduce the process from months to weeks, allowing local areas to reap the benefits of economic growth much more quickly. We look forward to promoting it across the capital, and seeing a London-led initiative roll out across the country.”
LPA Perspective: Good internet connectivity is now not far behind water and electricity in terms of occupier expectations these days, both for businesses and for domestic householders. So it is a great relief that someone has had the impetus to get all these parties around the table and agree a way to speed things up. Everyone wins – except, perhaps, the lawyers.
Getting connected is one thing, however. The worry is that the internet service you are connecting to is not, actually, very good. Internet speeds continue to be patchy, and the telecoms regulator’s recent roughing up of Openreach has demonstrated how unsatisfactory the provisioning of superfast broadband currently is.
As a result, planners need to take greater account of internet capacity and the realistic download capacity across an area, when planning for new development. Anecdotally, even brand new homes are still being consented, in areas where residents can expect insufficient internet speed to work from home – and that surely needs to be fixed, too. And the problem is not confined to rural areas, it is also happening in greater London and other UK city centres, too. Internet connectivity is a key infrastructure issue – it ought to be planned better.