Supply and disposal services should be provided in a manner that is both technically and visually satisfactory, i.e. both convenient and discreet. Services should be considered early in the design process as an integral part of a development’s layout. Statutory undertakers and other service suppliers should therefore be consulted at an early stage.

The economic use of space in a layout means that underground services will almost inevitably be located under roads and footways. Indeed, the National Joint Utilities Group (NJUG) publication ‘Provision of Mains and Services by Public Utilities on Residential Estates’ (1979)  recommends as a ‘general aim’ that services be laid under publicly adopted areas for improved maintenance access. Utilities providers typically do not wish to be forced to negotiate easements across private land.

In new developments, future disruption should be minimised by accommodating services under footways or service strips rather than under carriageways. Designs should also seek to future proof services provision by allowing space within the ducting for future technologies. Ducting should run to a point at the property boundary where it can be conveniently connected at a future date if required.

Routing of Services

All services should be routed underground. In planning terms, the overhead distribution of electricity or telecommunications services is unacceptable. Free-standing street furniture and statutory undertakers’ markers should be kept to a minimum.

Routing of Services in Carriageways

Sewers generally take priority in the laying out of services. As space under footways is limited, sewers should typically be located under carriageways. 

Routing of Services in Footways

Volume 1 of the NJUG publication ‘Guidelines on the Positioning and Colour Coding of Utilities Apparatus’ 20132013 (Issue 8) indicates that electricity, water, gas, telecommunications and cable TV services can be accommodated in a 2m-wide strip under a footway. This strip should incorporate features that allow for easy maintenance access (such as lighting columns) while minimising the disruption caused by maintenance work.

If the various utilities providers are willing to cooperate, services should be accommodated within a single duct wherever possible. As mentioned previously, ducting should have space to accommodate additional services and utilities infrastructure in future – for example, district heating or waste systems. Superfast broadband should be included as an imperative within all new development, and should be accommodated within the same single-duct design. It can then be connected to individual premises as required.

Buildings near any service mains should have sufficiently deep foundations not to impose a structural load on the mains.

Routing of Services & Verges

Roadside verges, whether publicly adopted or privately held, should be reserved for trees and other planting, and must therefore be kept clear of underground services.

Note: when trees are located within the highway verge, they are subject to commuted sums for maintenance.

Routing of Services in Public Open Space

If a sufficiently large area of publicly adopted space is available beside a significant length of road, it may be possible to locate sewers under it. This avoids encumbering the carriageway – though sewers should be situated in such a way as not to prevent the proper planting of the space.

Routing of Services in Shared-surface Streets

In streets with no separate footway, services should be carefully grouped so that excavation for maintenance does not block the street. Where there is a defined pedestrian margin, this is the correct location for underground services. Multi-way ducts and/or jointing chambers may be required, depending on the policy of the individual utilities providers; however, utilities should still be consolidated in a single ducting run wherever possible.

Routing of Services and Shared Private Drives

The developer must negotiate the system of supply with the individual utilities providers, agreeing rights of access and apportioning any additional costs. Easements with individual householders should be avoided, and any general easements should be entered in the title deeds of all the properties sharing the access.

Service Intakes to Dwellings

Meter cupboards and service intakes should be located either out of sight on flank elevations or in purpose-made joinery designed to fit the pattern of apertures on the elevation. They must be located at least 0.5m from the highway.

All intakes apart from gas should be run within the building and not be visible on the exterior. These requirements should be covered by conditions of the planning permission.

All new homes should be connected to ducting spurs with capacity to accommodate future utilities infrastructure. Space should also be provided within the home for the retrofitting of new technologies – for example, battery storage.

Substations and Governors

Electrical substations and gas governors should be subtly located, considering visual and recreational amenity and self-policing, and housed in purpose-made buildings designed and located to blend in with the adjoining housing. Aside from the visual benefits, this will minimise noises and smells experienced by neighbours.

Electrical substations and gas governors must be shown on planning applications; it is recommended that a condition be imposed withdrawing utility providers’ permitted development rights in such cases. Infrastructure associated with district and ground source heating systems (and similar) should be designed to blend seamlessly into both the landscape and the built form, with the opportunity for further adaptation should the relevant technologies evolve.

Page updated: 9/02/2018

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