Tackling Wayleaves: Speeding up Business Digital Connections

  • By Jennifer Sibley

Overview

London may be the capital of the UK but the city still suffers from poor digital connectivity in some areas. Even when broadband speeds and the connectivity on offer are good, businesses can struggle to get connected quickly. This is problematic for any business, but especially so for new or start-up businesses, and those in the technology or digital sectors. The time delays in agreeing a wayleave risk damaging London’s competitive edge.

To help address these issues, the City of London has put together a ‘digital toolkit’ designed to help businesses who are tenants in a multiple-occupancy commercial building, who are either moving into new premises or want to change or upgrade their current digital offer. It is often assumed this process simply requires the business to decide which provider they want; and arrange an installation date. However, while tenants do usually have the right to secure an internet connection and run cabling through specified parts of the building in their lease; the landlord’s consent is usually required before anything is installed. Even if it isn’t, a landlord is likely to require permission for any alterations to the building, and will want to keep a record of what is being installed in the building to ensure good estate management.

As a consequence, tenants can experience significant delays as the process of securing their landlord’s consent and agreeing a wayleave (the legal documentation) is lengthy and costly to all parties – the tenant, the landlord and the communications provider.

The City of London decided to undertake the necessary legal work to create a standardised wayleave process. This means that there is no longer any need for communications providers to negotiate bespoke agreements with each landlord of any building they get a request from tenants to connect.

The digital toolkit is in five parts. It comprises a guidance note which explains the benefits to all parties and their responsibilities. It has a key steps flow chart, a blank key personnel contact sheet, and a model risk assessment for the necessary connection works. It contains a Standardised Wayleave Agreement which can be used for new and existing buildings.

The key steps flow chart is reproduced below:

Flowchart

 

The wayleave toolkit has been developed with and endorsed by a range of stakeholders in the land, property and digital industries. These include the British Property Federation; BT Openreach; the Department for Culture, Media and Sport; the Internet Service Providers Association; the Mayor of London; Land Securities; Savills; Virgin Media and Vodafone.

While it has been developed by the City of London, it can be used anywhere in London and the UK to achieve the same objectives of speeding up business connections to digital and telecommunications infrastructure.

Commentary

The toolkit has the potential to considerably speed up the process of businesses securing digital and telecommunications connections, and reduce the costs of doing so.

The digital toolkit is a great example of London leading the way in tackling a nationwide issue and of local authorities taking action to bring solutions.

The benefits for landlords are that the Wayleave Agreement allows them oversight and control over the telecommunications installations within their property, which ensures there is a full audit trail for when they sell the building. For communications providers, the Wayleave Agreement should reduce the time taken to secure landlord consent and limit the legal costs as there will no longer be the need to draft individual agreement for each building where equipment is installed. For tenants, the key benefit is a quicker overall installation time and greater accountability and responsibility during the process. Using the toolkit has seen reductions in the time taken for connections to be agreed for all parties.

London Councils encourages all boroughs to make themselves familiar with the digital toolkit. We think there is the potential for boroughs to use it in the following ways:

  • Highlighting the toolkit to businesses approaching the council for advice about their digital options, whether through officers or members;
  • Highlighting the toolkit to building management companies in their local area, especially where multiple-occupancy commercial buildings are common;
  • Using the toolkit in situations where the borough acts as a landlord and offers commercial space for rent.

London Councils is holding an event on 19 January 2017 for boroughs to find out more about the toolkit and how it can be used and promoted to speed up business connections in your area. The event is free and is open only to councillors and officers of the London boroughs and the City of London as a benefit of their council’s membership of London Councils. Find out more and register here

Jennifer Sibley, Principal Policy Officer